Reality caught up with science fiction today when Star Trek actor William Shatner, also known as Captain James T. Kirk, briefly crossed into outer space aboard. Blue origin New suborbital spacecraft Shepard.
In the process, the 90-year-old Shatner earned the title of oldest human being in space, less than three months after 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk set that record on the first crewed flight. by Blue Origin.
“How about that guys?” Shatner could be heard saying during the descent. “That was different from everything they described. … That is not like anything you can feel. “
Today’s mission at Blue Origin launch site one in West Texas was the 18th for the New Shepard class of spacecraft, including 16 unmanned flights in the past six years. It marked a bright day for Kent, Washington-based Jeff Bezos’ space company amid a series of challenges and controversies.
The flight followed the pattern set by the historic July mission, which carried Funk, Bezos, his brother Mark, and Dutch student Oliver Daemen across the 100-kilometer (62-mile) space boundary known as the Karman Line.
Today, Shatner was joined by three other space travelers: Chris Boshuizen, a venture capitalist who co-founded Planet Labs; Glen de Vries, co-founder of Medidata Solutions who is now an executive at Dassault Systems; and Audrey Powers, vice president of flight and mission operations for Blue Origin’s New Shepard.
Boshuizen and de Vries paid an undisclosed fee for their trip, while Shatner and Powers flew on behalf of Blue Origin.
Before heading to the launch pad, Blue Origin crew trainer Sarah Knights presented the quartet with commemorative coins. “To the head we go, to the cross no,” Shatner joked on the company’s live broadcast.
No coins were tossed: instead, the space flyers were brought to the platform in a Rivian truck with a uniformed Bezos acting as their chauffeur. They climbed the seven flights of stairs to the launch tower and then strapped into their seats under the guidance of the Knights. Bezos himself closed the hatch.
After a series of countdown holds, the hydrogen-fueled New Shepard thruster took off at 9:49 a.m. CT (7:49 a.m. PT), pushing the crew capsule to a maximum altitude of 347,539 feet (106 kilometers or 65.8 miles). ) above ground level before the two elements of the ship were separated. Shatner and the others had a few minutes to get up from their seats, float in zero gravity, and gaze out at the curved Earth through the pod’s panoramic windows.
While the thruster flew by itself to a landing on a landing pad not far from the launch pad, the four space travelers returned to their seats for a parachute descent back to the Texas desert. The trip lasted 10 minutes and 17 seconds.
After landing, Bezos opened the hatch and accompanied the crew to a round of hugs from friends and family, and a celebratory spurt of champagne.
Shatner got philosophical as he chatted with Bezos by the capsule, the webcast team’s camera rolling beside him.
“Everyone in the world needs to do this,” Shatner told Bezos. “It was amazing.… To see the blue cover, go howl by, and now you’re staring into the dark. … There is blue down there and black up there. There is Mother Earth and consolation, and there is … Is there death? I dont know. Is that death? Is death like this? Howl and it’s gone. …
“What you’ve given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” Shatner said, seemingly overcome. “I am so full of emotion for what just happened. It’s extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope I can keep what I feel now. I do not wanna lose it. It is much bigger than me and life. It has nothing to do with the ‘little green men’ and the ‘blue orb’. … It has to do with the enormity, the speed and the rapidity of life and death. “
William Shatner’s trip aboard Jeff Bezos’ rocket could have been intended as a publicity stunt, but skimming the edge of the sky left the actor in awe. Shatner, 90, spoke of space as the last frontier while Bezos listened, still like a statue. https://t.co/LL0QUsHt5t pic.twitter.com/oaKwFinKTh
– The New York Times (@nytimes) October 13, 2021
This was the RSS First Step trip today. Your mission: find Earth from incredible views in heyday pic.twitter.com/Gzsnkv97K9
– Blue origin (@blueorigin) October 13, 2021
Bezos then gave each of the flyers a custom-made astronaut pin and a hug. Thousands of postcards were packed aboard the capsule for the Club for the future, Blue Origin’s non-profit educational program, and will be returned to senders now that they have returned from space.
According to The Associated Press, Shatner took some of Bezos’ childhood memories into space as a favor: Star Trek-style tricorders and communicators that the 57-year-old billionaire made when he was 9 and were saved by his mother. (A lifelong Star Trek fan, Bezos had a cameo in the 2016 movie “Star Trek Beyond.”)
Shatner was the star of today’s mission, thanks to his long-running status as a space show celebrity. He was the starship captain in the original “Star Trek” series in 1966-1969, at a time before the birth of his three companions, and went on to roles in a number of Star Trek films, as well as films and non-space television series. .
It has also served as priceline launcherAnd at times, Shatner sounded like he was playing that role in an unofficial capacity to Bezos and his spatial vision. “Jeff Bezos’s concept of making life and building in space, and making pollution a thing of the past, what lofty ambitions are those, and someone has to start,” he said in a pre-launch video posted by Blue Origin.
So far, New Shepard appears to be the most successful element of Blue Origin’s multi-front space program. After the first manned mission in July, Bezos said his 21-year-old space company had amassed nearly $ 100 million in private sales for future suborbital space flights. The next crewed flight is expected to take place later this year, and there will also be unmanned fact-finding missions.
Blue Origin has faced setbacks on other fronts, including delays in the development of its next-generation BE-4 rocket engine and its orbital-class New Glenn rocket. This spring, it lost to SpaceX in a multi-million dollar competition to build the first lunar lander to carry astronauts for NASA’s Artemis lunar program. A ruling on Blue Origin’s legal challenge is expected next month.
There have also been signs of internal dissension: Last month, a trial attributed to 21 current and former Blue Origin employees accused the company of laxity when it came to sexual harassment and flight safety.
According to the trial, most of the authors “would not fly in a Blue Origin vehicle” due to safety concerns. Perhaps in response to the essay, today’s Blue Origin webcast emphasized the security of the New Shepard system.
“There are many people at Blue who would be excited to fly New Shepard, and I am happy to count myself as one of them. It is a fantastic system. It’s a very robust system, ”said Andrew Lake, New Shepard’s senior director of safety and mission assurance, in a pre-recorded interview.
“Well, I hope we can go one day,” replied Ariane Cornell, who is also a launch commentator and director of astronaut and orbital sales for Blue Origin.
This report has been updated with the statistics from the Blue Origin mission.