William Shatner has reached the final frontier.
At 90 years old, the Star Trek actor entered space aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle on Wednesday morning (2am Thursday AEDT), becoming the oldest person in history to “boldly go where no man has gone before”.
Shatner, who turned 90 in March, gained international fame playing the iconic role of Captain Kirk on Star Trek, but made a very real trek to outer space today if only for a brief suborbital joyride aboard a New Shepard rocket.
It’s the same one that took Amazon billionaire Bezos to space earlier this year.
Bezos is a vocal Star Trek fan and Shatner will be flying as a guest, free of charge.
Though his spacecraft wasn’t equipped with warp drive, transporters or shields, Shatner and three crewmates – NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of satellite company Planet Labs, and software executive Glen de Vries, who are both paying customers, and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations – took off from Blue Origin’s launch facilities in West Texas on Wednesday (Thursday morning AEDT).
The launch came after a 24-hour delay from the original schedule due to rough winds in the area.
The four astronauts, all wearing blue flight suits with the company’s name in white letters on one sleeve, climbed into the crew capsule atop the spacecraft and strapped in after ascending a set of stairs accompanied by Bezos. Each rang a bell before entering the capsule.
Before that, they rode a vehicle with Bezos at the wheel to the launch pad after about a half hour delay.
A joyride aboard a Starfleet spaceship, it will not be. Rather, the group strapped themselves inside a capsule that sits atop Blue Origin’s 60-foot-tall New Shepard rocket, which soared up to about three times the speed of sound and reached great heights before coming immediately back down to Earth.
From beginning to end, the journey took about 11 minutes. Blue Origin said the astronauts would experience about three to four minutes of weightlessness and travel above the internationally recognised boundary of space known as the Karman Line, about 100 km above Earth.
The crew capsule returned to the Texas desert under parachutes.
Shatner, who has been acting since the 1950s, remains busy with entertainment projects and fan conventions.
He is best known for starring as Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise on Star Trek and seven subsequent films about fictional adventures in outer space.
As an actor, Shatner was synonymous with space voyages. During the opening credits of each episode of the classic 1960s TV series, he called space “the final frontier” and promised “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Shatner said there is both irony and symmetry to his space trip, having played a space explorer for decades and now actually becoming one.
“Having played the role of Captain Kirk … assigns me the knowledge that a futuristic astronaut would have, but I’ve always been consumed with curiosity,” Shatner said in a Blue Origin video.
“I’m going up into space; I don’t know how many people who can say that. It’s life-changing in its way,” Shatner also said in the promotional video.
“Not because of the aerial adventure, but because of the people I’m meeting and talking with. … We’re just at the beginning, but how miraculous that beginning is. How extraordinary it is to be part of that beginning. There is this mystique of being in space, that much closer to the stars and being weightless. I shall be entranced by the view of space.”
The successful space flight marks the second of what Blue Origin hopes will be many space tourism launches, carrying wealthy customers and thrill seekers to the edge of space.
– Reported with CNN, Variety and Reuters
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