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Laura Shepard, daughter of space icon, and 'GMA' host Strahan next to fly in space

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Laura Shepard, daughter of space icon, and 'GMA' host Strahan next to fly in space
The NS-18 mission is seen after liftoff from west Texas on, carrying actor William Shatner and three others. File Photo courtesy of Blue Origin

Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Private space exploration company Blue Origin announced on Tuesday that the next private passengers who will leave the Earth on a mission next month are Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of the first American in space, and former NFL star and broadcaster Michael Strahan.

The pair will fly on the NS-19 mission on Dec. 9. The New Shepard spacecraft is named after Alan Shepard, Laura's father, who was the first American to fly into space on May 5, 1961. He also walked on the moon on Apollo 14 in 1971.

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Shepard Churchley and Strahan will fly as honored guests, while four others will be paying customers.

Blue Origin's last mission, NS-18, flew on Oct. 13 and carried actor and Star Trek legend William Shatner into space.

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Shepard Churchley is chair of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which raises funds for college students interested in careers in science, math, technology and engineering.

"I'm really excited to be going on a Blue Origin flight," Shepard Churchley said in a video posted Tuesday. "I'm very proud of my father's legacy. I believe he would say the same thing as my children: 'Go for it, Laura.'"

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In an interview with UPI earlier this year, Shepard Churchley spoke of her family name's legacy in space.

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"We were excited to have daddy go to the moon," she said in June. "Others had already gone to the moon, so we were confident he would make it. We had been more concerned about it when he was the first American to go into space."

Alan Shepard wasn't the first to set foot on the moon, but he is widely known for doing something on the lunar surface that hadn't even been approved by NASA -- hitting a golf ball.

"It was a total surprise. I thought, what the heck is he doing," Laura told UPI in the interview. "He didn't tell us in advance."

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Strahan, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2014 after a 15-year career as a defensive lineman with the New York Giants, now co-anchors ABC's Good Morning America.

The other four who will make the flight next month are space industry executive and philanthropist Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess and his son Cameron. Lane and Cameron Bess will become the first parent-child pair to fly into space.

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