Van Horn, Texas — Hollywood captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner blasted into space Wednesday at the convergence of science fiction and science reality, reaching the final frontier on a ship built by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin company.
The “Star Trek” protagonist and three fellow passengers traveled an estimated 66 miles (106 kilometers) over the West Texas desert in a fully automated capsule, then safely parachuted back to Earth in a flight that lasted just 10 minutes. Went.
“You’ve done something,” an enthusiastic Shatner said to Bezos as he exited the capsule, words spilling from him in a torrent. “What you have given to me is the most profound experience.” He added: “I hope I never recover from this.”
He said going from a blue sky to the darkness of space was an experience that made him wonder, “Is this the way to death?”
In July, Shatner became the oldest person in space — eight years, eclipsing the previous record set by a passenger on a similar jaundice aboard the Bezos spacecraft. The flight involved approximately three minutes of weightlessness and visualization of the Earth’s curvature.
Sci-fi fans rejoiced at the chance to see the man known as Captain James T. Kirk, the veteran of the Starship Enterprise, where no American TV star had gone before.
“Seeing Captain James Tiberius Kirk going into space is a pinch moment for all of us,” Blue Origin launch commentator Jackie Cortes said before liftoff. She said that she, like many others, was attracted to the space business from shows like “Star Trek.”
Bezos is a huge “Star Trek” fan—the Amazon founder had a cameo as an alien in one of the later “Star Trek” movies—and Shatner frees up as his invited guest.
Given its inherent appeal to baby boomers, celebrity watchers and space enthusiasts, Blastoff brought invaluable star power to Bezos’s spacecraft company. Shatner starred in the TV original “Star Trek” from 1966 to 1969, When America Was Running to the Moon, and appeared in a series of “Star Trek” movies.
Bezos himself escorted all four to the pad, accompanied them to the above-ground platform and closed the hatch after boarding the 60-foot rocket. An enthusiastic Bezos was there to greet him as his capsule floated back down to Earth under his brilliant blue and red parachute.
“Hello, astronauts. Welcome to Earth!” Bezos said as he opened the hatch and Shatner hugged him. The capsule, New Shepard, was named after Alan Shepard, the first American to go into space.
The flight comes as the space tourism industry finally takes off, with passengers aboard ships built and operated by some of the world’s richest men.
Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic led the way in July aboard his own rocket ship into space, followed by Bezos on his maiden flight nine days later with the crew of Blue Origin. Elon Musk’s SpaceX made its first private trip in mid-September, though without Musk.
Last week, the Russians launched an actor and a film director to the International Space Station for a film-making project.
“We are just at the beginning, but how miraculous that beginning is. How extraordinary to be a part of that beginning,” Shatner said in a Blue Origin video posted on the eve of his flight.
Shatner worked with Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president and former space station flight controller for NASA, and two paying clients: Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer who co-founded a satellite company, and Glen de Vries of a 3D software company. Blue Origin would not disclose the price of their tickets.
Blue Origin said Shatner and the rest of the crew met all medical and physical requirements, including the ability to climb up and down multiple flights of stairs at the launch tower. As the capsule returns to Earth, the passengers are subjected to approximately 6 G, or six times the force of Earth’s gravity.
“Shooting in space is the worst thing I think I’ve ever seen,” said Joseph Barra, a bartender from Los Angeles who helped round out Blue Origin’s launch week festivities. “William Shatner is setting the bar for what a 90-year-old can do.”
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Dunn reported from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Associated Press video journalist Cody Jackson contributed to this story.