Glen de Vries, a 54-year-old software executive, was killed earlier this week when a Cessna 172 he was aboard crashed in a state park in northern New Jersey. In October, De Vries rode on Blue Origin’s second brief flight to the edge of space alongside William Shatner, the actor famous for portraying Star Trek’s Captain Kirk.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Cessna 172 was on a flight from Essex County Airport in Fairfield, NJ to Sussex Airport. The two airports are roughly 29 miles apart. Thomas Fischer, the owner and lead instructor of a local flight school, also lost his life in the crash. De Vries trained as a pilot at the flight school, which is based at the departure airport. It is not yet clear to authorities which of the two people onboard was in control of the plane when it crashed.
Besides being the ultimate exploration of a life-long fascination with aviation and spaceflight, De Vries used the highly-publicized trip to the top of the planet’s upper atmosphere to bring attention to a number of environmental issues. This included a $1 million donation he made to Water.org on the day before his Blue Origin flight. Water.org is a nonprofit organization that helps bring access to clean drinking water to tens of millions of people across the developing world.
When asked about how it felt to look down at Earth, Glen de Vries answered that it made him more aware of time. He said, “The passage of time, just like the resources on Earth, feels more precious with expanded perspective.” He had the means and opportunity to live out his dream to go to space, and he did it. When asked, De Vries stated passionately that he (and anyone else who ever had) would love to return to space.