STAR TREK ACTOR William Shatner has become the oldest person in space after blasting off from the Texas desert on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket.
The actor, 90, reached the final frontier, delighting the millions of sci-fi fans who know him as Captain James T Kirk of the USS Enterprise.
Shatner and three other passengers lifted off in the fully automated, 60ft tall New Shepard rocket from Van Horn, west Texas, slightly later than planned in order to give experts more time to monitor winds in the area.
According to a live stream of the historic event, Shatner and his fellow passengers reached an altitude of roughly 350,000ft and a velocity of about 2,000mph.
Shatner was the second passenger to step out of the capsule and was embraced by a delighted Bezos.
The actor, who became emotional while speaking to the billionaire, said: “Everyone in the world needs to do this.”
Shatner said he was shocked by the difference in the blue sky of Earth and the vast blackness of space, adding: “It was so moving to me. This experience has been unbelievable.”
He appeared stunned in his conversation with Bezos, admitting he was taken aback by how quickly he reached space. “In a way it’s indescribable,” he said.
Shatner added it was “the most profound experience I can imagine”.
He said: “I am so filled with emotion about what just happened, it’s extraordinary. Extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it. It’s so much larger than me.”
Further trying to explain the experience to Bezos, Shatner said: “It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death.”
The 90-year-old’s trip into orbit was delayed earlier this week due to winds but is set to take off from Van Horn, Texas today.
Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is a huge fan of the sci-fi series and even had a cameo as a high-ranking alien in the 2016 film Star Trek Beyond. His rocket company invited Shatner to fly as its guest.
Shatner experienced a short period of weightlessness as he climbs to a maximum altitude. He was also able to see the curvature of the Earth through the capsule’s windows.
“I want to have the vision, I want to see space,” the Canadian star told reporters earlier this week.
“I want to see the Earth. I want to see what we need to do to save Earth. I want to have a perspective that hasn’t been shown to me before.”
This mission marked the second successful crew launch of Blue Origin’s all-civilian New Shephard rocket. The first successful all-civilian flight of Blue Origin had Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daeman.
Three out of four astronauts sent out messages of strength, appreciation and motivation to the second crew. “You lucky bastards. It was only 10 weeks ago I was sitting where you are watching the countdown clock full of anticipation and excitement, eager to feel the rumble of liftoff and the majesty of weightlessness. The depth of my desire to fly again is hard to express,” Jeff Bezos said.
I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now & then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.🚀 pic.twitter.com/ZY2Ka8ij7z
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) October 13, 2021
With flights short or long, space tourism is picking up steam fast.
Virgin Galactic carried founder Richard Branson to the edge of space with five others in July, followed nine days later by Bezos’ space hop.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX, meanwhile, launched its first private crew last month – a Pennsylvania entrepreneur who bought the three-day flight and took along two contest winners and a cancer survivor.
Virgin Galactic’s ship launches from an airplane and requires two pilots. Blue Origin and SpaceX’s capsules are fully automated, but the passengers must pass medical screenings and, among other things, be able to quickly climb several flights of steps at the launch tower to get to the capsule – or out of it in an emergency.
Bezos, meanwhile, was criticised when he thanked Amazon workers after his brief trip to the edge of space in July.
Bezos built Amazon into a shopping and entertainment behemoth but has faced increasing activism within his own workforce and rising pressure from critics to improve working conditions.
Labour groups and Amazon workers have claimed the company does not offer its hourly employees enough break times, puts too much reliance on rigid productivity metrics, and has unsafe working conditions.
An effort to unionise workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama failed earlier this year.