William Shatner, 90, who played the captain of the Starship Enterprise on “Star Trek,” blasted into the final frontier on Wednesday aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin capsule and rocket.
The rocket launched at 9:49 a.m. CST, reaching more than 50,000 feet in just one minute. The craft hit a top speed of more than 2,200 mph.
The capsule and booster separated a few minutes later and the craft eventually reached a top altitude of 351,185, a little more than 66.5 miles off the surface of the Earth. On descent, the craft created a loud sonic boom.
Three small parachutes then popped out, pulling along three main red, white, and blue chutes.
“That was unlike anything they described,” Shatner could be heard saying as the capsule neared the ground. “That’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”
At 9:59 a.m., just 10 minutes after launch, the capsule touched down safely.
“Not only is it different from what you thought, it happens so quickly,” Shatner said once on the ground. “Everybody in the world needs to do this. Everybody in the world needs to see this.”
Shatner said it was weird to be covered in blue, but then sink into black. Looking down from that altitude, he said, “there is mother Earth, and there is,” he said, pointing up, “is it death? I don’t know.”
To Bezos, he said, “what you have given me is the most profound experience,” he said, choking up with emotion before hugging Bezos and wiping his eyes. “I am overwhelmed.”
Before the launch, Blue Origin explained why Shatner was included in the NS-18 crew.
“William Shatner’s career as an actor, director, producer, writer, recording artist, and horseman has spanned 60 years,” the company said in a press release. “He originated the role of ‘Captain James T. Kirk’ in 1966 for the television series Star Trek. The series spawned a feature film franchise where Shatner returned as Captain Kirk in seven of the Star Trek movies, one of which he directed. He has long wanted to travel to space and will become the oldest person to have flown to space.”
When the flight was announced, Shatner said: “I’ve heard about space for a long time now. I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle.”
“So now I can say something. Yes, it’s true; I’m going to be a ‘rocket man!’” Shatner tweeted following the announcement.
Bezos, who founded Amazon, blasted into space aboard his New Shepard rocket back in July, but the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has tightened its rules on who qualifies to be deemed an “astronaut.” Although Bezos and the crew of Blue Origin soared to 66.5 miles above the Earth — technically qualifying for a trip into outer space — the fully autonomous New Shepard rocket ship means they weren’t really “astronauts.”
“In order to qualify, they have to make a contribution to the flight and to human space flight safety while traveling beyond the 50 miles mark defined as space by the FAA,” the Daily Mail reported. “With the Blue Origin New Shepard spacecraft controlled entirely from the ground, with no input from the crew on board, the new FAA criteria wasn’t met.”
But the pilots of a Virgin Galactic craft, who flew the space plane to 53 miles above the Earth on July 10, along with chief astronaut Beth Moses, who flew solo on a test flight, have been awarded the new commercial FAA astronaut wings. Yet no one from the Blue Origin team qualified.
To be considered to have flown into space, one must pass the Kármán line. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), an international body for aeronautics and astronautics that sets standards and keeps records, defines the Kármán line as the altitude of 100 kilometers — or 62 miles (about 330,000 feet) — above Earth’s mean sea level.
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