October 26, 2021

William Shatner: Star Trek actor, 90, becomes oldest person to reach space after trip on Blue Origin rocket

October 13, 2021

Star Trek actor William Shatner has become the oldest person to reach space, calling his trip "the most profound experience".

The 90-year-old blasted off from Texas at 3.49pm UK time on a Blue Origin rocket - the space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series, spent 10 minutes on his suborbital flight alongside three others.

As it happened - William Shatner becomes oldest ever astronaut

After touching down, Shatner placed his hands on Bezos's shoulders and told him: "What you have given me is the most profound experience... I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened".

"I hope I never recover from this. I hope I can maintain what I feel now - I don't want to lose it," he added.

He said that smashing through the blue sky to the blackness of space was a moving experience.

"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 that's death," Shatner said.

"That's what I saw. Is that the way death is?..." he asked.

Before the launch, Shatner had admitted he was a "little frightened".

The 18-metre New Shepard rocket sent the quartet just above the internationally-recognised boundary of space known as the Karman Line, reaching about 66 miles (106km) above Earth.

The reusable rocket detached from the capsule carrying the astronauts and fired its engines to land itself upright back on the launch pad.

Shatner experienced weightlessness before parachutes delivered the capsule back to Earth at about 15mph, touching down in a cloud of dust in the desert.

Bezos opened the hatch as Shatner and the others stepped out to cheers and hugs from their families.

Two paying customers were on the flight: former NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen - who co-founded a satellite company, and clinical research entrepreneur Glen de Vries.

The fourth astronaut was Blue Origin vice president and former NASA space station flight controller Audrey Powers.

The company tweeted that the rocket reached 2,235mph (3,597kph) and the mission lasted 10 minutes and 17 seconds.

Blue Origin's rocket system is called New Shepard, named after the Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard who was the first American to go into space.

The company aims to attract regular paying customers in future and had its maiden space tourism flight on 20 July, when Bezos and three others flew to the edge of space.

Other billionaires are also competing in the space race, notably Elon Musk's SpaceX and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.

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