William Shatner, star of Star Trek and one of the most recognizable characters in science fiction, became on Wednesday a space traveler from real life on Blue Origin’s second manned mission, which he considered one of the most profound experiences of his life.
“It was incredible,” said the 90-year-old Canadian actor, who was moved to tears after spending 11 minutes in space.
The rocket New Shepard it took off at 9:49 a.m. local time, after a two-day delay, rising 106 kilometers above sea level.
Shatner, el Captain Kirk from the iconic series Star Trek, traveled with the executive of Blue Origin, Audrey Powers, the co-founder of Planet Labs, Australian Chris Boshuizen, and Glen de Vries of the health research platform Medidata Solutions.
The founder of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, greeted the crew as they exited the capsule and were showered with applause and champagne.
Like the nearly 600 astronauts who traveled before him, Shatner marveled at the experience of feeling weightless and the breathtaking view of Earth from space.
“You’ve given me the most profound experience you can imagine. I’m so excited about what just happened,” he told Bezos, moved to tears.
“What you see below is Mother Earth, and it needs to be protected,” he later told reporters.
The mission replicated the maiden flight of Blue Origin in July, which featured Bezos himself and was seen as a watershed moment for the fledgling space tourism industry.
This time the focus was on Shatner, who became the oldest person to ever travel to space.
The intergalactic voyages of the “Enterprise”, the ship of Star Trek Commanded by the character played by Shatner, they encouraged Americans to pay attention to the stars as NASA developed its space program in the 1960s.
“Captain Kirk (…) represents, perhaps more than anyone, ‘the last frontier’ for several generations, in the United States and around the world,” the series’ scriptwriter and historian Marc Cushman told AFP.
Shatner has said that he had a sometimes difficult relationship with the cultural fanaticism that he generated. Star Trek.
However, in recent years, the actor has given up on the fame that caused his most famous role.
“I am overwhelmed by the response,” Shatner replied to a question from AFP about the effusive support he has received from fans and the space community since the mission was announced.
Battle for space tourism
For Blue OriginMeanwhile, the second mission in less than three months was another step in its attempt to establish itself as a leader in space tourism.
Boshuizen and Vries increased the number of people who paid to travel to three, after Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, who was on the first flight.
Competition in space tourism is growing.
Virgin Galactic, which offers a similar experience of a few minutes of weightlessness and the view of the Earth from the cosmos, launched a ship with its founder Richard Branson in July, a few days before Bezos.
And, in September, SpaceX He sent four people on a three-day trip around the planet, a much more ambitious endeavor, but also probably much more onerous.
For many space enthusiasts, Shatner’s trip was the icing on the cake for a pop culture phenomenon that inspired generations of astronauts, scientists, and engineers.
Star Trek had a long connection with the NASA, whose scientists received the first scripts to verify their accuracy, according to Cushman, the writer.
“Those scientists, as well as almost everyone in the space agencies, were avid observers of Star Trek and they well understood that the popularity of the series helped spark growing interest and funding for the space program, “he said.
One of his mega-fans is himself Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. He even posted on Instagram an artwork he made at age nine that featured a communication tool that influenced the design of a folding phone decades later.
Bezos has said that Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, is inspired by the conversational computer of the “Enterprise.” Also, he made a fleeting appearance in the movie Star Trek Beyond of 2016.