William Shatner, of ‘Star Trek’ fame, TV’s Capt. Kirk, blasts into space

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.

“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.

“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.

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’s second human spaceflight has returned to Earth after taking a brief flight to the edge of space this morning.

Among the four passengers on board — there is no pilot — was William Shatner, the actor who first played the space-traveling Captain Kirk in the Star Trek franchise.

The rocket, New Shepard, took off around 9:50 a.m. CT from a launch site near Van Horn, Texas.

Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns Blue Origin, was on site for the launch and shook the hands of all four passengers as they boarded New Shepard. The rocket is named after American astronaut Alan Shepard.

The “Star Trek” hero and three fellow passengers soared 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 of just over 10 minutes.

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.

“How about that, guys? That was unlike anything they described,” the actor said as the capsule descended under its brilliant blue and red chutes.

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.”

Shatner said ahead of the countdown that he planned to spend his approximately three minutes of weightlessness gazing down at Earth, his nose pressed against the capsule’s windows.

“The only thing I don’t want to see is a little gremlin looking back at me,” he joked, referring to the plot of his 1963 “Twilight Zone” episode titled “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

 

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