Captain Kirk successfully blasts into space on Jeff Bezos' rocket

From a launchpad in remote West Texas, legendary Captain James T. Kirk successfully blasted into space aboard Jeff Bezos’ tourist rocket Wednesday morning.

Along with three other civilian astronauts, the 90-year-old actor William Shatner, who famously played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, reached some 66 miles above Earth on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, where the crew experienced weightlessness. Shatner became the oldest person to ever reach space, surpassing the 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk. (She previously broke the record aboard a Blue Origin spacecraft in July.)

After a lively 10-minute trip, the Blue Origin capsule parachuted to the Texas ground for a successful, dusty landing. It was Blue Origin’s second human spaceflight.

“Everyone needs to see it,” Shatner, at first struggling for words, said after exiting the capsule. He described the “soft blue pillow” of the atmosphere, as Bezos stood raptly listening on the desert floor. NASA astronauts have often described the intensity of the “overview effect,” which can alter how one views life, Earth, and beyond.

“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” Shatner added. “I hope I never recover from it.”


“I hope I never recover from it.”

Three other civilian astronauts joined Shatner on the flight: Audrey Powers (Blue Origins’ vice president for mission and flight operations), Glen de Vries (cofounder of the life sciences company Medidata Solutions), and Chris Boshuizen (who co-founded the satellite company Planet Labs).

The Blue Origin rocket blasting off on Oct. 13, 2021.

The Blue Origin rocket blasting off on Oct. 13, 2021.
Credit: SCREENSHOT: YOUTUBE / BLUE ORIGIN

The successful, well-publicized launch was a dose of good news for Bezos’ young space tourism and rocket company. The company has been troubled by accusations of workplace toxicity and safety woes, according to a recent letter signed by 21 current and former Blue Origin employees.

During the webcast, Blue Origin’s broadcasters repeatedly underscored the New Shepard rocket’s safety. “I can say, from speaking to many in industry about New Shepard, that there is high confidence that the vehicle is about as safe as you can possibly make a rocket and spacecraft,” Ars Technica space editor Eric Berger tweeted before the launch.

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Both SpaceX and Blue Origin have now successfully launched civilians into space in 2021. Blue Origin plans yet another crewed spaceflight this year.

“This is the beginning of a new era,” the newly minted civilian astronaut Boshuizen said in a Blue Origin broadcast before the launch. “This is the year the door has opened for the human race to go to space.”

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