William Shatner, TV’s Capt. Kirk, blasts into space

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Parachutes slow the descent of the Blue Origin capsule with passengers William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries near the company’s spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/LM Otero

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” hero and three fellow passengers hurtled to an estimated 66 miles (106 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.

“”You have done something,” an exhilarated Shatner told Bezos as he emerged from the capsule, the words spilling from him in a torrent. “What you have given me is the most profound experience.” He added: “I hope I never recover from this.”

He said that going from the blue sky to the blackness of space was a moving experience that made him wonder, “Is that the way death is?”

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 stalwart Capt. James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise boldly go where no star of American TV has gone before.

William Shatner, TV's Capt. Kirk, blasts into space
This undated photo made available by Blue Origin in October 2021 shows, from left, Chris Boshuizen, William Shatner, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries. Their launch scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 will be Blue Origin’s second passenger flight, using the same capsule and rocket that Jeff Bezos used for his own trup three months earlier. Credit: Blue Origin via AP

“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 the space business by shows like “Star Trek.”

Bezos is a huge “Star Trek” fan—the Amazon founder had a cameo as an alien in one of the later “Star Trek” movies—and Shatner rode free as his invited guest.

The blastoff brought priceless star power to Bezos’ spaceship company, 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 himself drove the four to the pad, accompanied them to the platform high above the ground and cranked the hatch shut after they climbed aboard the 60-foot rocket. A jubilant Bezos was there to greet them when the capsule floated back to Earth under its brilliant blue-and-red parachutes.

William Shatner, TV's Capt. Kirk, blasts into space
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launches carrying passengers William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/LM Otero

“Hello, astronauts. Welcome to Earth!” Bezos said as he opened the hatch and was embraced by Shatner. The capsule, New Shepard, was named for first American in space, Alan Shepard.

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 led the way by riding 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 aboard.

Last week, the Russians launched an actor and a film director to the International Space Station for a movie-making project.

“We’re just at the beginning, but how miraculous that beginning is. How extraordinary it is to be part of that beginning,” Shatner said in a Blue Origin video posted on the eve of his flight.

  • William Shatner, TV's Capt. Kirk, blasts into space
    Gene Walker, of Denison, Texas, makes a photo of a Blue Origin mural on a building for sale in Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday Oct. 12, 2021. Today’s launch has been pushed to Wednesday due to weather. Credit: AP Photo/LM Otero
  • William Shatner, TV's Capt. Kirk, blasts into space
    Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launches carrying passengers William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/LM Otero

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 who co-founded a satellite company, and Glen de Vries of a 3D software company. Blue Origin would not divulge the cost of their tickets.

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. Passengers are subjected to nearly 6 G’s, or six times the force of Earth’s gravity, as the capsule returns to Earth.

Shatner shooting into space is “the most badass thing I think I’ve ever seen,” said Joseph Barra, a bartender flown in from Los Angeles to help cater Blue Origin’s launch week festivities. “William Shatner is setting the bar for what a 90-year-old man can do.”


To oldly go: Shatner, 90, inspires with real-life space trip


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William Shatner, TV’s Capt. Kirk, blasts into space (2021, October 13)
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