Entrepreneur Dies After Traveling to Space with William Shatner

Getty Blue Origin vice president of mission and flight operations Audrey Powers, Star Trek actor William Shatner, Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen and Medidata Solutions co-founder Glen de Vries wave.

An entrepreneur who flew to space with William Shatner on Blue Origin’s New Shepard has died. Almost exactly one month after his historic flight, Glen de Vries died in a plane crash in New Jersey. After his space flight, de Vries spoke about what a privilege it was to fly with Shatner and had talked about how moving his experience of flying into space had been.

He Died in a Small Plane Crash in New Jersey

Glen de Vries, 49, died in a small plane crash in Sussex County, New Jersey, CBS News reported. Thomas P. Fischer, 54, was with him on the flight and also died. Fischer was the owner and head instructor of Fischer Aviation and a second-generation flight instructor, New Jersey Herald reported.

The cause of the crash has not yet been identified and the FAA is investigating. A preliminary report will be released in about a week, the FAA told New Jersey Herald.

De Vries was a private pilot, a molecular biologist, and the co-founder of Medidata Solutions, CBS News reported. The company was acquired by Dassault Systemes for $5.8 billion in 2019.

De Vries had started taking private pilot training instruction from Fischer in 2016, New Jersey Herald reported.

Blue Origin tweeted condolences upon learning about his death.

Blue Origin wrote, “We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries. He brought so much life and energy to the entire Blue Origin team and to his fellow crewmates. His passion for aviation, his charitable work, and his dedication to his craft will long be revered and admired.”

The FAA sent an alert around 3 p.m., noting that a single-engine Cessna 172 had gone missing in the region of Kemah Lake, New Jersey Herald reported. They were traveling to Sussex Airport from Essex County Airport.

After His Flight Into Space, de Vries Talked About How Inspirational ‘Star Trek’ Was & What a Privilege It Was to Fly with Shatner

De Vries told Blue Origin about his experience: “You go from the horizon being a straight line, to the horizon being curved and back in an extraordinarily short amount of time. That sense of speed and that sense of sense of transition was just something that was unexpected, really exciting part of the flight.”

He spoke with Carnegie Mellon University about his flight after he returned from space. It was an amazing opportunity, he said, because the chance to be an astronaut conventionally had long passed him.

“To be fortunate enough where I could actually make this happen is an unbelievable opportunity,” he said. “I’ve spent years talking about the need for equity and access in the world of health care, and I think space needs to be democratized in the same way.”

When asked, he shared that there wasn’t any music in the car as he, Bezos, Audrey Powers, Chris Boshuizen, and Shatner drove to the launch site. They just spent a lot of time talking with Bezos. He said that as the countdown to their launch happened, he found himself picturing an old photo his mom had of him launching a model rocket as a child.

He said his flight really reminded him of the importance of addressing climate change, as he looked out the window while they were in space.

You don’t really see the stars in space during the day because the sun is reflecting so brightly off the Earth. And touching infinity is Earth, which I oriented at the top of the window, and you could see this tiny blue line of atmosphere. You’re seeing Earth in indescribably vivid colors: blue, white, yellow, brown and green. There’s such a stark contrast between Earth and space and that line where we all live in between is frighteningly small. I know climate change is a huge problem, but the view made strikingly clear: If we really want Earth to be beautiful the way that we as humans can live on it and enjoy it, we need to start thinking about preserving the environment urgently.

As for Shatner, he said that riding with him was a true privilege.

He told Carnegie Mellon:

Star Trek is a 55-year-old franchise that’s inspired so many people. I think this idea of science fiction becoming fact shouldn’t be lost on anybody. I’ve seen it in medicine… And in regard to space, now we have the person who portrayed that iconic character having gone to space himself. Science fiction becomes science fact. Moreover, Bill has performed on stage and every size screen. He’s an actor and musician and has spent his career working on expressing emotion. Being on this trip with someone like that — who could help us really think about how to articulate and express the experience ourselves — was a real privilege.

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