Pretend starship captain to take trip in real space capsule

William Shatner joins crew for Bezos' number two

The game of billionaire one-upmanship has continued with the confirmation that Blue Origin's next flight of its New Shepard sub-orbital capsule will contain veteran actor William Shatner.

Shatner, famed for some nerdy TV show from the 1960s, had been rumoured as one of the crew taking flight on 12 October aboard NS-18. Joining him will be Audrey Powers, vice president of Blue Origin's Mission & Flight Operations and former NASA Flight Controller.

"I've heard about space for a long time now. I'm taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle," said Shatner.

Blue Origin's New Shepard doesn't go into orbit, only being capable of scraping past 100km in altitude. In comparison NASA's Mercury programme, which ran in the years before that stupid telly show, comfortably flew higher and eventually hit orbit with John Glenn's Friendship 7.

Still, Shatner's flight will be considerably more luxurious than those of the Mercury astronauts. It will also make him the oldest human (at 90) to be launched into space.

The news comes in the wake of an essay by former Blue Origin staffers alleging inappropriate conduct, sexism and an iffy approach to safety. For its part, Blue Origin was reported as saying it had "no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind," and that it stood by its safety record.

As well as her other duties, Powers has served as executive sponsor of Blue Origin's New Mercury gender diversity business resource group. "I have great confidence in our New Shepard team and the vehicle we've developed," she said.

The launch itself is targeted for 1330 UTC on 12 October from the West Texas Launch Site One facility.

As for how Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic might top Captain Kirk going to space, we could name a few billionaires that would benefit from the journey. On condition they did not come back.

And to Shatner, may the force be with him. Or something. ®

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