Thursday, October 21, 2021

William Shatner to fly to space on Blue Origin rocket

by Marcia Dunn

Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) — Captain Kirk is rocketing into space next week — boldly going where no other sci-fi star has gone.

Jeff Bezos’ space travel company, Blue Origin, announced Monday that “Star Trek” actor William Shatner will fly over West Texas on October 12.

“Yeah it’s true; I’m going to be a ‘Rocket Man’!” tweeted the 90-year-old. He continued: “It’s never too late to experience new things.”

Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is a big fan of the sci-fi series and even made a cameo in the 2016 film “Star Trek Beyond” as a high-ranking alien. His rocket company invited Shatner to fly as their guest.

Shatner will become the oldest person to go into space. He will join three others aboard the Blue Origin capsule – two of them paying customers. He will be the second actor to reach space this month: Russia is launching an actress and a film director to the International Space Station on Tuesday for nearly two weeks of filmmaking.

By comparison, Shatner’s flight will last only 10 minutes and reach no more than about 66 miles (106 kilometers). The capsule would parachute back to the desert floor from which it took off.

With short or long flights, space tourism is booming.

Bezos’ space hop came nine days after Virgin Galactic carried founder Richard Branson along with five others to the edge of space in July. Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched its first private crew last month — a Pennsylvania entrepreneur who bought a three-day flight and took two competition winners and a cancer survivor along.

Virgin Galactic’s ship launches from an airplane and requires two pilots. Blue Origin and SpaceX’s capsules are fully automated, but passengers must pass medical screenings and, among other things, be able to quickly climb several flights of stairs to the launch tower to reach the capsules — or in case of an emergency. I get out of it.

This will be the second launch of Blue Origin’s crew.

Bezos was on the first flight on July 20. He took his brother, Wally Funk, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands, and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk—the youngest and oldest to fly in space. Shatner would break that upper limit by eight years.

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“I’ve heard about space for quite some time. I’m taking this opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle,” Shatner said in a statement.

Shatner served as the commander of the USS Starship Enterprise for three seasons from 1966 to 1969. He starred in seven films as Captain James T. Kirk, directed one of them. He is currently the host and executive producer of the History Channel show, “The Unexplained”.

The ashes of two other “Star Trek” powerhouses — producer Gene Roddenberry and actor James Doohan, who played Scotty — were flown into space years ago after his death.

Also launching with Shatner: a former NASA engineer who founded a nanosatellite company and co-founder of a software company specializing in clinical research. Both took part in the auction for a seat on the first flight. That seat is worth $28 million; Blue Origin is not disclosing any other ticket prices.

The fourth seat in flight is going to Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, who used to serve as the space station flight controller for NASA.

A spokesperson for Blue Origin said Shatner, like others, meets all of the company’s health and physical needs.

Last week, more than 20 current and former Blue Origin employees accused the Kent, Washington-based company of having a toxic work environment and not following proper safety protocols. Blue Origin said it does not tolerate harassment or discrimination and stands by its safety record.

Bezos’s company is also challenging a NASA contract award to provide SpaceX with a lunar lander that will return astronauts to the Moon in a few years. Blue Origin failed in its bid for the job.

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The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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This story has been corrected to show that Shatner will be the oldest man to go into space at six, not eight years.

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