For three years of the 1960s, viewers on NBC were treated to a sci-fi TV show that painted an optimistic 23rd Century for mankind and friendly aliens out there. The original “Star Trek” series starred, among others, actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprises as it boldly went where no man has gone before. While the show inspired many to delve into space exploration, whether at NASA or private companies, Shatner continued with his acting career while occasionally returning to the Kirk experience at “Star Trek” events. Then, this past Wednesday, the now-aged actor got to do what his character regularly did, for real.
Associated Press tells us that William Shatner had just been a high-profile celebrity passenger on the October 13 launch of a sub-orbital space capsule manufactured by Blue Origin, the aerospace firm founded by Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos. The New Shepard spacecraft, named RSS First Step, took Shatner and three crewmates to the upper edge of the atmosphere (over 66 miles up from ground level), where they experienced three minutes of weightlessness in outer space before the capsule descended back to Earth by parachute. The entire trip lasted just about 10 minutes from takeoff to landing.
At 90 years old, Shatner just became the oldest person to fly to outer space. He broke the three-month-old record of Wally Funk, aged 82, who flew with Bezos on the same New Shepard craft back in July. Funk however retains the record for oldest woman. Upon landing, the “Star Trek” actor told Bezos, who was at the Blue Origin launch site in Texas, that the short voyage gave him the most profound experience. “I hope I never recover from this,” Shatner tells Bezos. “I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”
William Shatner’s brief imitation of his iconic sci-fi role lit a fire in the imagination of “Star Trek” fans, some of whom work at Blue Origin. They flooded social media with messages of congratulations to the nonagenarian movie star, along with Captain Kirk quotes like “Risk is our business.” The buzz created by the flight, where Shatner rode for free as an invited guest of Jeff Bezos, could also be construed as putting a positive veneer over Blue Origin, which recently has been under scrutiny for workplace conditions, compared to close rival, Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Accompanying Shatner on “Blue Origin NS-18” were the company’s VP of mission and flight operations Audrey Powers, satellite company Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen, and software executive Glen de Vries. Shatner also carried aboard the space capsule some homemade “Star Trek” props created by Bezos.
Image from NBC News