Star Trek's Shatner boldly goes to space

Star Trek actor William Shatner has become the oldest person ever in space, after taking part in Blue Origin's second suborbital tourism flight.

Three months after billionaire US businessman Jeff Bezos took part in the first fight offered by his company, Shater, 90, who embodied the promise of space travel on the TV series and films, was among the four-person all-civilian crew that blasted off from Texas on Wednesday. 

Joining Shatner for the roughly 10-minute journey were former NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen, clinical research entrepreneur Glen de Vries and Blue Origin vice president and engineer Audrey Powers.

After disembarking, an emotional Shatner hugged Bezos and told him the experience was "so moving". 

"Everybody in the world needs to do this. What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine ... it's extraordinary."

New Shepard, an 18.3-metre-tall spacecraft carried the group 96km above Earth, allowing them to experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the crew capsule returned to the Texas desert under parachutes. The flight, previously scheduled for Tuesday, was pushed back a day for wind-related reasons.

Blue Origin had a successful debut space tourism flight on July 20, with Bezos and three others aboard, flying to the edge of space and back on a trip lasting 10 minutes and 10 seconds. 

Bezos, the Amazon.com Inc founder and current executive chairman, formed Blue Origin two decades ago.

Shatner has been acting since the 1950s and remains busy with entertainment projects and fan conventions. He is best known for starring as Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise on the classic 1960s TV series Star Trek and seven subsequent films about fictional adventures in outer space.

As an actor, Shatner was synonymous with space voyages. During the opening credits of each episode of the series, he called space "the final frontier" and promised "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

Shatner said there was both irony and symmetry to his space trip, having played a space explorer for decades and now actually becoming one.

"This is no piece of cake," Shatner told the programme "CBS Mornings."

"I want to see space. 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,."

Shatner's participation in the flight has helped generate publicity for Blue Origin as it competes against two billionaire-backed rivals - Elon Musk's SpaceX and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc - to attract customers willing to pay large sums to experience spaceflight.

Branson inaugurated his space tourism on July 11, riding along on a suborbital flight with six others aboard his company's VSS Unity rocket plane. SpaceX, which has launched numerous astronauts and cargo payloads to the International Space Station for NASA, debuted its space tourism business by flying the first all-civilian crew to reach Earth's orbit in a three-day mission ending September 18.

The US Federal Aviation Administration two weeks ago said it would review safety concerns raised by former and current Blue Origin employees who have accused the company of prioritizing speed and cost savings over quality control and adequate staffing.
 

 

 

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