William Shatner, TV’s Capt. Kirk, blasts into space
Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, blasted into space Wednesday in a convergence of science fiction and science reality, reaching the final frontier aboard a ship built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company.
The “Star Trek” actor and three fellow passengers hurtled to an altitude of 66.5 miles (107 kilometers) over the West Texas desert in the fully automated capsule, then safely parachuted back to Earth in a flight that lasted just over 10 minutes.
William Shatner goes to space on Blue Origin mission
“What you have given me is the most profound experience,” an exhilarated Shatner told Bezos after climbing out of the hatch, the words spilling from him in a soliloquy almost as long as the flight. “I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”
He said that going from the blue sky to the utter blackness of space was a moving experience: “In an instant you go, `Whoa, that’s death.’ That’s what I saw.”
Shatner became the oldest person in space, eclipsing the previous record — set by a passenger on a similar jaunt on a Bezos spaceship in July — by eight years. The flight included about three minutes of weightlessness and a view of the curvature of the Earth.
Sci-fi fans reveled in the opportunity to see the man best known as the brave and principled commander of the starship Enterprise boldly go where no star of American TV has gone before. The internet went wild, with Trekkies quoting favorite lines from Kirk, including, “Risk: Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about.”
“This is a pinch-me moment for all of us to see Capt. James Tiberius Kirk go to space,” Blue Origin launch commentator Jacki Cortese said before liftoff. She said she, like so many others, was drawn to space by shows like “Star Trek.”
NASA sent best wishes ahead of the flight, tweeting: “You are, and always shall be, our friend.”
The flight brought priceless star power to Bezos’ space-tourism business, given its built-in appeal to baby boomers, celebrity watchers and space enthusiasts. Shatner starred in TV’s original “Star Trek” from 1966 to 1969, back when the U.S. was racing for the moon, and went on to appear in a string of “Star Trek” movies.
Bezos is a huge “Star Trek” fan — the Amazon founder had a cameo as an alien in one of the later movies — and Shatner rode free as his invited guest.
As a favor to Bezos, Shatner took up into space some “Star Trek” tricorders and communicators — sort of the iPhones of the future — that Bezos made when he was a 9-year-old Trekkie. Bezos said his mother had saved them for 48 years.
Bezos himself drove the four crew members to the launch pad, accompanied them to the platform high above the ground and cranked the hatch shut after they climbed aboard the 60-foot rocket. He was there to greet them when the capsule floated back to Earth under its brilliant blue-and-red parachutes.
“Hello, astronauts. Welcome to Earth!” a jubilant Bezos said as he opened the hatch of the New Shepard capsule, named for first American in space, Alan Shepard.
Shatner and his crewmates wore close-fitting, flame-retardant, royal-blue flight suits, not exactly the tight, futuristic-for-the-’60s V-necks that the crew of the Enterprise had on TV.
The actor said he was struck by the vulnerability of Earth and the relative sliver of its atmosphere.
“Everybody in the world needs to do this. Everybody in the world needs to see,” he said. “To see the blue color whip by, and now you’re staring into blackness, that’s the thing. The covering of blue, this sheath, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around, we say, ‘Oh, that’s blue sky.’ And then suddenly you shoot through it all, and you’re looking into blackness, into black ugliness.”
Shatner said the return to Earth was more jolting than his training led him to expect and made him wonder whether he was going to make it back alive.
“Everything is much more powerful,” he said. “Bang, this thing hits. That wasn’t anything like the simulator. … Am I going to be able to survive the G-forces?”
Passengers are subjected to nearly 6 G’s, or six times the force of Earth’s gravity, as the capsule descends. Blue Origin said Shatner and the rest of the crew met all the medical and physical requirements, including the ability to hustle up and down several flights of steps at the launch tower.
Shatner going into space is “the most badass thing I think I’ve ever seen,” said Joseph Barra, a bartender who helped cater the launch week festivities. “William Shatner is setting the bar for what a 90-year-old man can do.”
The flight comes as the space tourism industry finally takes off, with passengers joyriding aboard ships built and operated by some of the richest men in the world.
Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson went into space in his own rocket ship in July, followed by Bezos nine days later on Blue Origin’s first flight with a crew. Elon Musk’s SpaceX made its first private voyage in mid-September, though without Musk on board.
Last week, the Russians launched an actor and a film director to the International Space Station for a movie-making project.
Blue Origin said it plans one more passenger flight this year and several more in 2022. Sounding like the humane and idealistic Captain Kirk himself, the company said its goal is to “democratize space.”
Shatner strapped in alongside Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president and former space station flight controller for NASA, and two paying customers: Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer, and Glen de Vries of a 3D software company.
Blue Origin would not divulge the cost of their tickets.
The flight brought to 597 the number of humans who have flown in space.
“Today’s launch is a testimony to the power of the imagination, and we should not lose sight of that power,” University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank said in an email.
“William Shatner may be `just an actor,’ but Captain James T. Kirk represents a collective dream of a hopeful future in space that ‘Star Trek,’ and science fiction in general, gave us all,” Frank continued. “Bezos gave Shatner a seat on his rocket because he, like millions of others, fell in love with ‘Star Trek’ and its vision of a boundless frontier for humanity.”
Watch: William Shatner Goes Into Space On Blue Origin Flight
Blue Origin sends William Shatner to edge of space
The mission was delayed by nearly an hour as crews at the launch pad worked to ensure that the rocket was ready for flight.
More than 50 years after he debuted as the beloved Capt. James T. Kirk in the original series of “Star Trek,” William Shatner boldly flew to the edge of space.
The 90-year-old actor launched Wednesday aboard a rocket and capsule developed by Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The historic joyride made Shatner the oldest person to reach space.
“It was unbelievable,” Shatner said shortly after emerging from the capsule. “I’m so filled with emotion.”
Shatner and three other crew members — Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, and two paying customers, Glen de Vries and Chris Boshuizen — rode Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and capsule to the edge of space. Liftoff occurred at around 10:50 a.m. ET and the entire flight lasted roughly 10 minutes.
Bezos escorted the four passengers to the launch pad and greeted them after their spacecraft touched down again. After Shatner climbed out of the capsule, he hugged Bezos and shared how moved he was by the brief trip.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” he told Bezos through tears. “I am overwhelmed. I had no idea.”
Shatner recalled feeling jittery before liftoff, and spoke about what it was like to accelerate to the edge of space. He also described seeing the planet’s thin atmosphere and gazing back at the curvature of Earth.
“There’s this soft blue,” Shatner said. “And it’s so thin. And you’re through it in an instant.”
During the flight, the “Star Trek” actor tweeted a quote from the 17th-century physicist Isaac Newton: “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now & then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
The mission was delayed by nearly an hour as crews at the launch pad worked to ensure that the rocket was ready for flight. Previously, high winds at the Texas launch site also forced Blue Origin to push the expedition from its originally scheduled time earlier in the week.
In an interview last week with NBC’s “TODAY” show, Shatner spoke about his anticipation for the upcoming flight.
“I’m going to see the vastness of space and the extraordinary miracle of our Earth and how fragile it is compared to the forces at work in the universe — that’s really what I’m looking for,” he said.
Shatner’s trip was Blue Origin’s second launch of an all-civilian crew. The company’s inaugural flight in July was a high-profile and high-stakes event, with Bezos, his brother and two other passengers onboard.
The New Shepard rocket and capsule are designed for suborbital jaunts, which don’t actually enter into orbit around Earth but rather fly to the edge of space, at an altitude of more than 65 miles, where passengers can experience around four minutes of weightlessness.
Wednesday’s flight launched from a site in west Texas, southeast of El Paso. After liftoff, the rocket accelerated toward space at three times the speed of sound. At an altitude of approximately 250,000 feet, the New Shepard capsule separated, taking Shatner and his crew members to the edge of space.
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William Shatner OC is a Canadian actor, author, producer, director, screenwriter, singer and space tourist.
(born March 22, 1931)
In his seven decades of acting, he became known for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek franchise.
He has written a series of books chronicling his experiences playing Captain Kirk, being a part of Star Trek, and life after Star Trek. He has also co-written several novels set in the Star Trek universe and a series of science fiction novels called TekWar that were adapted for television. Shatner also played the eponymous veteran police sergeant in T. J. Hooker (1982–1986) and hosted the reality-based television series Rescue 911 (1989–1996), which won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Dramatic Series.
Shatner also appeared in two episodes of the television detective series Columbo almost two decades apart.
He also appeared in seasons 4 and 5 of the NBC series 3rd Rock from the Sun as the alien “Big Giant Head” to which the main characters reported.
Blue Origin, LLC is an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company headquartered in Kent, Washington.
Founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos, the founder and executive chairman of Amazon, the company is led by CEO Bob Smith and aims to make access to space cheaper and more reliable through reusable launch vehicles.
Rob Meyerson led Blue Origin from 2003 to 2017 and served as its first president.
Blue Origin is employing an incremental approach from suborbital to orbital flight, with each developmental step building on its prior work.
The company’s name refers to the blue planet, Earth, as the point of origin.
William Shatner boldly went into space for real this morning.
The covering of blue. This sheet, this blanket, this comforter that we have around. We think, oh, that’s blue sky,” an emotional Shatner said after returning to earth.
“Then suddenly you shoot through it all of the sudden, as though you’re whipping a sheet off you when you’re asleep, and you’re looking into blackness, into black ugliness.”
At age 90, Shatner is now the oldest person to fly into space.
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now & then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me,” he said in a tweet after landing.
James T. Kirk
James Tiberius Kirk is a fictional character in the Star Trek media franchise.
Originally played by Canadian actor William Shatner, Kirk first appeared in Star Trek: The Original Series serving aboard the starship USS Enterprise as captain. Kirk leads his crew as they explore new worlds, new civilizations, and “boldly go where no man has gone before”.
Often, the characters of Spock and Leonard McCoy act as his logical and emotional sounding boards, respectively.
Kirk has also been portrayed in numerous films, books, comics, webisodes, and video games.