VAN HORN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — He once described it as a place “where no man has gone before,” but today it is men and a woman who went into space with actor William Shatner.
Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90, blasted into space Wednesday in a convergence of science fiction and science reality, aboard a ship built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company.
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The “Star Trek” hero and three fellow passengers soared to an estimated 66 miles over the West Texas desert in the fully automated capsule and then safely parachuted to the desert floor in a flight that lasted just over 10 minutes.
Shatner became the oldest person in space, eclipsing the past record — set by a passenger on a similar jaunt on a Bezos spaceship in July — by eight years.
“That was unlike anything they described,” Shatner said at the capsule descended toward Earth.
Shatner said ahead of the countdown that he planned to use his approximately three minutes of weightlessness gazing down at Earth, his nose pressed against the capsule’s windows.
We have confirmed separation of the capsule from the booster. Our astronauts are getting out of their seats and experiencing weightlessness. #NS18
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) October 13, 2021
“The only thing I don’t want to see is a little gremlin looking back at me,” he joked, referring to the plot of his 1963 “Twilight Zone” episode titled “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
Bezos is a huge “Star Trek” fan — the Amazon founder had a cameo as an alien in one of the later “Star Trek” movies — and Shatner rode free as his invited guest.
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The blastoff brought priceless star strength to Bezos’ spaceship company, given its built-in allurement to baby boomers, celebrity watchers and space enthusiasts. Shatner starred in TV’s original “Star Trek” from 1966 to 1969, back when the U.S. was racing for the moon, and went on to appear in a string of “Star Trek” movies.
Bezos himself drove the four to the pad near Van Horn, Texas, accompanied them to the platform high above the ground and cranked the hatch shut after they climbed aboard the 60-foot rocket. He was also there when the crew returned to earth and exited the rocket.
The capsule, New Shepard, was named for first American in space, Alan Shepard.
“This is a pinch-me moment for all of us to see Capt. James Tiberius Kirk go to space,” Blue Origin set afloat commentator Jacki Cortese said before liftoff. She said she, like so many others, was drawn to the space business by shows like “Star Trek.”
The flight comes as the space tourism industry finally takes off, with passengers joyriding aboard ships built and operated by some of the richest men in the world.
Shatner strapped in alongside Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president and former space stop flight controller for NASA, and two paying customers: Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer who co-established a satellite company, and Glen de Vries of a 3D software company. Blue Origin would not divulge the cost of their tickets.
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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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