Actor William Shatner, who made his career and most of his international fame playing Captain James T. Kirk on the sci-fi series Star Trek, voyaging through space on the famous USS Enterprise, has finally actually gone to space. The 90-year-old has officially become the oldest living human to venture outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Shatner, and three others, were part of a crew launching within a Blue Origin rocket to the edge of space. Blue Origin is a space tourism company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who also blasted off into the void aboard the same model rocket in July.
WATCH: William Shatner takes New Shepard rocket to space:
Shatner together with three other civilian passengers took the 10-minute journey to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, kissing space and then returning to the ground aboard the New Shepard spacecraft, which took off from the Blue Origin launch site in rural Texas.
Floating down on parachutes, the crew capsule returned to terra firma and touched down safely in the Texas desert. Bezos himself was awaiting the crew and embraced Shatner as the elderly space traveller emerged from the shuttle.
“Everybody in the world needs to do this,” an emotional Shatner said in his rumbling baritone. “It was unbelievable,” he said, unintentionally giving Bezos the best advertisement for his space tourism company yet.
Shatner, who played a space-fairer for many years and embodied the hope for a future in which mankind freely travelled the stars looking for adventure and success, said he had prepared himself for experiencing weightlessness – the crew experienced all but a few minutes of zero-gravity when they reached about 106KM above the Earth’s surface – but was taken aback by the contrast between the Earth and the blackness of space.
“You’re looking into blackness, into black ugliness,” Shatner said. “And you look down, there’s the blue down there — and the black up there — and it’s just, there is Mother Earth.” The emotional actor compared the dichotomy to death and life.
Shatner’s inclusion in the flight, alongside crewmembers like former NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen, clinical research entrepreneur Glen de Vries and Blue Origin VP and engineer Audrey Powers, generated much-needed international buzz for Bezos’ company, which is currently projected to reach an annual value of $3-billion in a decade, according to Business Live.
Blue Origin is one of three major space tourism companies currently operating, all managed by tech tycoons. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX all enjoyed successful flights in the last two years to the acclaim of the media but to the annoyance of political commentators and entities like the UN who believe the ongoing space race between the three companies is nothing but a very expensive ego trip.