by Douglas Messier
Visibly moved to tears, Star Trek actor William Shatner struggled to describe the experience of spaceflight to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos after making a suborbital flight aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I am so filled with emotion about what just happened. Just extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now, I don’t wanna lose it,” he said.
Shatner, who is known the world over as Captain James Tiberius Kirk from the Star Trek TV series and movies, became the oldest space explorer at the age of 90. He enjoyed about 3 minutes of weightlessness during the 10-minute flight.
Other passengers on the flight included: Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Planet Labs; Glen de Vries, vice-chairman of Licenses & Healthcare, Dassault Systemes and co-founder of Mediadata; and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin vice president of Mission and Flight Operations.
Shatner was particularly struck by the contrast of the Blue Earth below him and the dark black of space.
“Suddenly you’re thru the blue to black….The moment you see the vulnerability of everything…This air that’s keeping us alive is a sliver,” he said.
It was the second crewed New Shepard flight and the 18th overall for the reusable rocket and capsule system. Jeff Bezos flew on the first crewed flight with his brother Mark and two other people on July 20, which was the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
“At Blue Origin, we are motivated by the dreamers that inspire us and the builders who turn those dreams into reality. Today’s crew represented both dreamers and builders. We had the honor of flying our very own Audrey Powers, Vice President of New Shepard Operations, who fulfilled a lifelong dream to go to space and has been an integral part of building New Shepard. Our two customers, Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, have built their own successful ventures and have now realized their own dreams of space travel. And, as everyone knows, William Shatner has played an important role in describing and imagining the wonders of universe and inspired many of us to pursue a career in the space industry,” said Bob Smith, CEO Blue Origin. “This flight was another step forward in flying astronauts safely and often. It’s an incredible team and we are just getting started.”
Blue Origin is planning a third crewed flight this year, with additional crewed flights planned for 2022.
Shatner said he wanted everyone to be able to experience the wonders of space as he did. That will prove difficult for the foreseeable future. Blue Origin has not announced what its tickets cost. Rival suborbital provider Virgin Galactic is charging $450,000 per seat to new customers. (The company previously sold tickets for $200,000 or $250,000, depending upon when they were bought.) Tickets to orbit on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Roscosmos’ Soyuz spacecraft cost tens of millions of dollars.