‘It was unbelievable’: Star Trek’s Shatner becomes real life astronaut

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The New Shepard rocket launches on October 13, 2021, from the West Texas region, 25 miles (40kms) north of Van Horn

Star Trek’s William Shatner, one of history’s most recognizable science fiction stars, finally became a real space traveler Wednesday on Blue Origin’s second crewed mission, calling it the most profound experience of his life.

“It was unbelievable,” said the 90-year-old Canadian, who played Captain James T. Kirk in the television series more than half a century ago, was moved to tears after the 11-minute journey beyond Earth’s atmosphere and back again to the Texas desert.

Shatner was joined by Blue Origin executive Audrey Powers, Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen, an Australian national, and Glen de Vries of clinical research platform Medidata Solutions.

Like the roughly 600 astronauts who have gone before him, Shatner marveled at the experience of weightlessness and the stunning view of our world from space.

“You look down, and there’s the blue down there, and the black up there … there is mother Earth, and just comfort, and there is just –- is that death?”

This time around, all attention was focused on Shatner, who became the oldest-ever astronaut, despite an appearance suggesting a man decades younger.

“Captain Kirk… represents ‘the final frontier’ perhaps more than anyone else for a couple different generations of people, in the US and worldwide,” screenwriter and Trek historian Marc Cushman told AFP.

But in recent years, the actor has leaned into the fame brought about by his most famous role. 

– Space tourism heating up –

Boshuizen and Vries brought the company’s total number of paying customers to three, after Dutch teen Oliver Daemen who was on board the first flight.

Virgin Galactic, which offers a similar experience of a few minutes’ weightlessness and a view of the Earth’s curvature from the cosmos, launched its founder Richard Branson in July, a few days before Bezos.

For many space enthusiasts, Shatner’s voyage was a fitting coda for a pop culture phenomenon that inspired generations of astronauts, scientists and engineers.

“Those scientists, as well as nearly everyone at those space agencies, were avid Star Trek watchers, and they well understood that the popularity of the series helped spark growing interest and funding for the space program,” he said.

The Amazon founder shared an Instagram post of Star Trek artwork he made when he was nine years old, which included a communication device that influenced flip phone design decades later.

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