star trek Actor William Shatner became a real astronaut on Wednesday on Blue Origin’s second crewed mission, calling it the darkest experience of his life.
“It was unbelievable,” said the 90-year-old Canadian, best known as the adventurer Captain James T. Kirk, a role he first played more than half a century ago.
He was joined on an 11-minute journey beyond Earth’s atmosphere and back again by three others: Blue Origin executive Audrey Powers, Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen and Medidata Solutions’ Glenn de Vries.
A New Shepard rocket took off from the company’s West Texas base at 9:49 a.m. (1449 GMT) after experiencing two brief delays, eventually taking off at an altitude of 66 miles (106 kilometers) above sea level.
Founder Jeff Bezos was on hand to greet the crew members as they exited the capsule, which parachuted-landed into the desert, and were showered with applause and champagne.
Like the nearly 600 astronauts who have gone before him, Shatner marveled at the experience of weightlessness and the stunning view of our world from space.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I am filled with emotion about what happened,” he said, moved in tears.
“What you see is Mother Earth, and it needs protection,” he later told reporters.
The mission was a replay of the company’s first manned flight in July, which included Bezos, and was seen as a breakthrough moment for the nascent space tourism sector.
This time, all attention was focused on Shatner, who became the oldest-ever astronaut, despite an appearance suggesting a man a decade younger.
The intergalactic voyages of the USS Enterprise, directed by Shatner’s character Kirk, helped draw American attention to the stars as the American space program began.
Screenwriter and Trek historian Mark Cushman told AFP: “Captain Kirk … represents the ‘final frontier,’ perhaps more than anyone else, for two different generations of people in America and around the world.”
Shatner, also known for his role as lawyer Denny Crane Boston Legalhas, among many others, spoken about sometimes difficult relationships in the past star trek And its fan culture.
But in recent years, the actor has gained fame with his most famous role.
Asked by AFP about the support he has received from fans and the wider space community since the mission’s announcement, Shatner said: “I am overwhelmed by the response.”
space tourism is heating up
For Blue Origin, meanwhile, the second mission in less than three months represents another step forward as it attempts to establish itself as a leading player in space tourism.
After Dutch teenager Oliver Damon, who boarded the first flight, Boshuizen and Vries brought the company’s total number of paying customers to three.
Competition in the field is heating up.
Virgin Galactic, which offers a few minutes of weightlessness and a similar experience of Earth’s curvature from the universe, launched its founder Richard Branson in July, a few days before Bezos.
And in September, SpaceX sent four private citizens on a three-day voyage around the planet — an altogether more ambitious, but possibly far more expensive endeavor.
For many space enthusiasts, Shatner’s journey was a fitting coda for a pop culture phenomenon that inspired generations of astronauts, scientists, and engineers.
According to Cushman, the show has a long-standing association with NASA, to whose scientists the initial scripts were sent to ascertain their accuracy.
“Those scientists, as well as almost everyone in those space agencies, were curious” star trek viewers, and they understood very well that the series’ popularity helped fuel the growing interest and funding for the space program,” he said.
Another mega-fan: Bezos himself.
Amazon founder shared an Instagram post star trek The artwork he created at the age of nine.
Bezos has said that Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant was inspired by conversational computers on the enterprise, and he even made a cameo in the 2016 film as an alien. star trek beyond, wearing an egg-shaped head.
© Agence France-Presse