William Shatner, the renowned Star Trek actor, became the oldest person to travel to space this week, and no matter how you feel about space tourism, you can appreciate his genuine awe at being able to look back at our home planet. Of course, being William Shatner, his comments ranged from profound to amusing. On Wednesday, Shatner flew into space atop the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin New Shepherd rocket on its second-ever crewed mission to space, following Bezos’ own trip in July.
The journey took a total of 10 minutes and 17 seconds. The four-person team flew to a height of 107 kilometers (66 miles), experienced microgravity, and then descended to the Texas desert, where they were greeted with champagne by Bezos. You may observe his and the others’ reactions to weightlessness and the perspective of Earth in a brief video published by Blue Origin. The legendary actor can be heard repeatedly saying, “Oh wow.” “No description can compare to this weightlessness,” he says, laughing deeply. Shatner, who turned 90 in March (breaking legend Wally Funk’s record of being the oldest person in space, which he held for 82 years), characterized going to the edge of space as “the most profound experience I can imagine.”
When he returned to Earth, Shatner went on an emotional and memorable diatribe, which Forbes kindly translated for you to enjoy. “This is something that everyone in the world needs to do.” Every single person on the planet needs to witness the, um… it’s still too… it was fantastic, unbelievable,” he told Bezos. “You know, the simple things, the weightlessness,” she says. However, it is the fact that you are staring into blackness after seeing the blue hue go roaring by!
“…and we think to ourselves, ‘Oh, that’s blue sky.’ And then you shoot through it all of a sudden as if you were ripping a sheet from your sleeping body, and you’re looking into blackness, into black ugliness, and you look down, and there’s the blue down there, and the black up there, and it’s just… there’s Mother Earth and comfort, and there’s — is there death? Is that death, I am not sure. Is that how death works? It has gone with a whoop. Jesus.”
Bezos seemed significantly more interested in grabbing a bottle of champagne to sprinkle over the returning space travelers, offering Shatner some while he gazed on bewildered. He said, “What you have given me is the most profound experience I can fathom.” “I’m so moved by what just happened that I can’t stop crying. It is extraordinary, extraordinary. I am hoping I will never be able to recover from this. I am hoping to keep what I am feeling right now; I do not want to lose it. It is so much bigger than I am and my life. It has nothing to do with the little green planet, the blue orb, or the — it does not have anything to do with any of that. It has to do with the enormity of life and death, as well as the rapidity and suddenness of death and then!”
It is possible that Shatner is experiencing the “overview effect,” a term coined by several astronauts to describe the feeling of awe that comes from seeing planet Earth from space. Both first-time civilian space tourists and veteran astronauts feel this sensation alike. Despite the fact that these voyages to space are launching a new business, the cost of a seat is unknown (although Blue Origin is said to have made $100 million on an unknown number of tickets), yet the Canadian actor was offered his seat free. It was a PR initiative that paid off handsomely.
Current and former employees have accused Blue Origin of sexism in the workplace, and they highlighted safety concerns. It is also suing NASA over the space agency’s decision to hire SpaceX to develop its next lunar landing system, which is impeding the agency’s mission to return to the Moon.