UNC professor says spaceflight was an ‘out of body experience’

Jim Kitchen has been to nearly every country on Earth, so, naturally, there was nowhere to go but up.

The UNC-Chapel Hill professor did just that in the latest Blue Origin spaceflight Thursday. Kitchen was one of six astronauts who went above the Kármán Line, the border between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

A video posted by Blue Origin on Instagram shows the six crew members floating in the capsule. At one point, Kitchen pulls out his passport and fellow astronaut George Nield pretends to stamp it.

As Kitchen exited the New Shepard NS-20 capsule, he held up a banner with the number “194” on it. That signifies the 193 countries he has visited plus his trip to space.

“I brought my passports that represent all the countries in the world,” Kitchen said. “This was pushing that final boundary into outer space.”

Kitchen, who teaches at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, called the adventure “an out of body experience” after the capsule landed in Texas from the 10-minute flight.

Kitchen has had a lifelong affinity for space travel ever since he would watch Apollo rocket launches in Florida in the 1960s, according to Blue Origin. As a college student in the 1980s, he promoted low-Earth-orbit space trips for a startup company.

This was the aerospace company’s fourth human spaceflight and 20th overall. This flight had been scrubbed twice because of high winds before getting the green light on Thursday.

“Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson was originally to be one of the six space travelers but was unable to join after the launch date was changed.