Captain Kirk blasting off for real

William Shatner, the Star Trek actor who found fame by pretending a Hollywood soundstage was a spaceship exploring the galaxy, will be launched to the edge of space for real next week.

Shatner, best known as Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek television series, will be part of a four-person crew  Blue Origin's New Shepard launch vehicle. The flight is scheduled for the morning of October 12, the space company said on Monday.

Blue Origin is owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos.

"I've heard about space for a long time now," the 90-year-old actor said in a statement released by Blue Origin. "I'm taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle."

In July, Bezos, the founder of Amazon, soared about 107km above the Texas desert aboard a New Shepard launch vehicle and returned safely to Earth.

Blue Origin said pioneering woman aviator Wally Funk (82) was the oldest person to reach space when she joined Bezos on the July flight. Shatner is set to break that record.

William Shatner with part of a birthday cake depicting him as Captain Kirk given to him at...
William Shatner with part of a birthday cake depicting him as Captain Kirk given to him at MEGACON in August. Photo: Getty Images
The actor is flying as a guest of Blue Origin, but the company says it has also sold nearly $US100 million ($NZ143 million) in tickets to paying customers, though it has not said how many.

Shatner will be joined by Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer; Glen de Vries, a clinical research entrepreneur; and Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president and engineer. 

Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000. New Shepard hurtled at speeds reaching 3595km per hour, exceeding the Karman Line - 100km straight up - set by an international aeronautics body to define the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space.

Shatner first played the role of Captain James T. Kirk in 1966 in a TV franchise that many NASA astronauts credited with igniting their love of space. He also played the role in seven feature films.

On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would review safety concerns raised by current and former Blue Origin employees who said the company "often prioritises execution speed and cost reduction over the appropriate resourcing to ensure quality."

Blue Origin said it promptly investigates any misconduct concerns raised by employees and stood by its safety record. 

 

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