Star Trek's Shatner becomes world's oldest space traveler

Star Trek's Shatner becomes world's oldest space traveler

VAN HORN, Texas--Having made a career out of playing an explorer of the cosmos, William Shatner - Captain James Kirk of "Star Trek" fame - did it for real on Wednesday, becoming at age 90 the oldest person in space aboard a rocketship flown by billionaire Jeff Bezos's company Blue Origin, an experience the actor called profound.


Shatner was one of four passengers to journey for 10 minutes and 17 seconds to the edge of space aboard the white fully autonomous 60-foot-tall (18.3 meters-tall) New Shepard spacecraft, which took off from Blue Origin's launch site about 20 miles (32 km) outside the rural west Texas town of Van Horn.
The crew capsule returned to the Texas desert from the suborbital flight under parachutes, raising a cloud of dust. Shatner emerged gingerly from the capsule in the desert silence, appearing reflective as the others celebrated by cheering and popping champagne bottles.
Bezos was on hand and embraced Shatner, who was wearing a cap and a blue flight suit with the company's name in white letters on one sleeve. "What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine," Shatner told Bezos as the two chatted for several minutes. "I am so filled with emotion about what just happened."
The all-civilian crew experienced a few minutes of weightlessness, having travelled about 65.8 miles (106 km) above the Earth's surface - higher than the internationally recognized boundary of space known as the Karman Line, about 62 miles (100 km) above Earth. It marked the second space tourism flight for Blue Origin, the company Bezos - the Amazon.com Inc founder and current executive chairman - founded two decades ago. Bezos flew aboard the first one in July.
Shatner - who embodied the promise of space travel in the classic 1960s TV series "Star Trek" and seven subsequent films - said he had prepared himself for experiencing weightlessness, but was stunned at the dramatic contrast of the beauty of the blue Earth and the blackness of space.
"You're looking into blackness, into black ugliness," Shatner said. "And you look down, there's the blue down there - and the black up there - and it's just, there is Mother Earth."
"This is life and that's death, and in an instant, you know - whoa - that's death," Shatner said. "That's what I saw."
"Is that the way death is?" Shatner asked.
Before the flight, each astronaut rang a bell and then entered the capsule atop the rocketship, with Bezos closing the hatch. Winds were light and skies were clear for the launch, conducted after two delays totalling roughly 45 minutes.
Joining Shatner were former NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen, clinical research entrepreneur Glen de Vries and Blue Origin vice president and engineer Audrey Powers. Shatner, who turned 90 in March, has been acting since the 1950s and remains busy with entertainment projects and fan conventions. He is best known for starring as Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the starship Enterprise on "Star Trek".
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."