Four travelers successfully flew to the edge of space and back on Blue Origin’s second commercial spaceflight including William Shatner, making the 90-year-old Star Trek actor the oldest person to leave Earth yet.
The nonagenarian was joined by Audrey Powers, VP of Blue Origin’s New Shepard flight operations, Dr Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer and co-founder of Earth-monitoring startup Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, vice-chair of life Sciences & Healthcare, at Dassault Systèmes.
Blue Origin’s capsule atop the New Shepard rocket launched near Van Horn, Texas, on Wednesday at 1449 UTC. The four-person crew was taken to the Kármán line, 100 kilometers or 330,000 feet above Earth’s mean sea level, a region where space officially begins. By 1459 UTC, they returned safely back on solid ground again. All in all, the journey only took about 10 minutes and 17 seconds.
Tech billionaire and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos welcomed the space tourists back when the capsule landed. Shatner was particularly moved by his experience. “Everybody in the world needs to do this. Everybody in the world needs to see this," he told Bezos, choking up. “It was unbelievable.”
He recounted his thoughts he had during the journey. “To see the blue color whip by! Now you’re staring at a blackness...That’s the thing, the covering of blue...this sheet, this blanket, this comforter of blue we have around us...We say, oh that’s the blue sky and then you shoot through it all and then all of a sudden...you whip off the sheet...and you’re looking at a blackness - into black ugliness.”
Shatner continued, pointing downwards: “And you look down, and there’s your blue down there. It’s just...there is mother Earth, comfort.” Then pointing upwards, referring to space “and there is...is there death?” Bezos patted the actor’s back and nodded.
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You can watch the replay of the flight and Shatner’s teary exchange with Bezos below (skip to 2:46:20).
“This flight was another step forward in flying astronauts safely and often,” Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith said in a statement. “It’s an incredible team and we are just getting started.”
The company’s first commercial flight launched in July, earlier this year. Wally Funk, a member of the Mercury 13 group, Bezos brothers Jeff and Mark, and an 18-year-old student Oliver Daemen were the first group to test New Shepard’s flight capabilities. ®