So the man who’s famous for depicting a fictional character who was willing to “boldly go where no man has gone before” has now actually gone where few men have gone before.
In the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 13, William Shatner went into space for real aboard a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket. Famous for many roles in television and motion pictures, but best known as Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise in the “Star Trek” TV series and movies, Shatner and three other citizen astronauts were aloft for about 10 minutes after launching in the Texas desert southeast of El Paso.
When the capsule they were in landed in a cloud of dust, Shatner was greeted by a small crowd that included Blue Origin founder and Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos. Shatner said he was forever transformed.
“Everybody in the world needs to do this,” he said. “It was unbelievable.”
Really, the story is amazing on several levels – not the least of which is the fact that Shatner is 90 years old, which not surprisingly makes him the oldest person to ever experience spaceflight. As they reached their apex at just above 60 miles altitude, Shatner and his fellow space travelers felt a short period of weightlessness and were able to see the curvature of the Earth through the capsule’s windows.
In an interview for Time Magazine, Shatner referred to how incredible the moment was when the spaceship left the Earth’s atmosphere and entered the “blackness” of space.
“In that instant, I saw the blue suddenly disappear,” he said, “and suddenly space is smack up in my face. I saw death there.”
The usually calm and collected Shatner was emotionally stirred by the whole thing.
“It moved me to tears,” he said, “so much so that I couldn’t control my emotions for 15 to 20 minutes.”
Shatner was joined on the flight by Blue Origin vice president Audrey Powers, Chris Boshuizen, who co-founded the Earth-imaging satellite company Planet, and Glen de Vries, an executive with a major French healthcare software corporation. The venture was one of the most well-known of its kind during a flurry of activity among several private space companies, including some run by other billionaires like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
The group spent a couple of days “training” for the flight, but all they really had to do was climb the launch tower (or gantry), strap themselves in and enjoy the ride because everything worked automatically.
This flight was the second crewed outing for Blue Origin. The first (on July 20) carried Bezos and his brother Mark, along with Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen and famed aviator Wally Funk. At 82, Funk, was able to claim the record for the oldest person in space for a while, but she has now relinquished that title.
Blue Origin has one more crewed flight scheduled for this year and several more planned for 2022.
Immediately after touchdown, Shatner said he hoped he never lost the sensation he felt.
“I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened,” he said. “I hope I never recover from this. I hope I can retain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”
Nonetheless, Shatner made it clear he isn’t likely to be up for an encore.
“I’m happy petting my dogs,” he said. “I don’t need any more of that stuff.”
Beam us up Scotty. The away party is ready to come home.