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The New Shepard rocket being launched from West Texas
Shatner was accompanied by three crewmates during the launchImage: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP
ScienceUnited States of America

The final frontier: Star Trek star flies to space

October 13, 2021

Actor William Shatner — star of the 1960s TV series Star Trek — has blasted off to become the oldest person in space. The 90-year-old was on board a suborbital flight with billionaire Jeff Bezos's company Blue Origin.


William Shatner and his crewmates blasted off on Wednesday from Blue Origin's launch site outside the rural west Texas town of Van Horn.

Shatner, at the age of 90, was accompanied by three crewmates aboard a fully autonomous New Shepard spacecraft.

How was the voyage carried out?

While the crew technically spent time in space, it's a far cry from the warp speed space travel aboard the Starship Enterprise for which Shatner's character became known.

The passengers experienced about three to four minutes of weightlessness.

They traveled above the internationally recognized boundary of space known as the Karman Line, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) above Earth.

The crew capsule descended to the Texas desert with the aid of parachutes.

Shatner, who was moved to tears by the experience, said "everybody in the world needs to do this" after he emerged from the Blue Origin capsule.

The flight was previously scheduled for Tuesday but had to be pushed back a day for wind-related reasons.

Onboard with him were Blue Origin vice president and engineer Audrey Powers, the former NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen, and clinical research entrepreneur Glen de Vries.

Keith Cowing, an editor at the Spaceref.com news website, told DW Wednesday that the blastoff with Shatner was "flawless in terms of marketing" for Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos. 

"What this shows is that anybody who can walk up and down the stairs and has the right stuff can go up into space, so long as they can buy the ticket or get a free one," Cowing said.

The launch came amid allegations that Amazon founder Bezos's space company put speed ahead of safety when completing its maiden flight in July. 

Billionaires Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson were racing to launch similar space tourism vehicles first.

Shatner synonymous with interstellar adventures

Shatner played Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series from the 1960s. 

Although the show had only three seasons, it was hugely influential in popular culture, and there were also several films in which Shatner also appeared.

William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock aboard the Starship Enterprise
William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock aboard the Starship EnterpriseImage: United Archives/TopFoto/picture-alliance

"This is a pinch-me moment for all of us to see Capt. James Tiberius Kirk go to space,'' said Blue Origin launch commentator Jacki Cortese ahead of the liftoff. 

Shatner's character came to represent humanity as it made its way into the unknown cosmos.

At the opening of each episode of the series, he evoked the idea of space as "the final frontier," promising "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

rc, wd/wmr (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)

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