In October 2021, “Star Trek” icon William Shatner went where no actor had gone before when he was shot into space aboard Blue Origin’s NS-18 rocket. Shatner, known worldwide as Captain James T. Kirk, commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise, was 90 years old at the time, making him the oldest person to take a voyage to the stars.
The flight in October was delayed a day due to weather, but when it did blast off, Shatner was aboard with a crew of four, including Shatner, Blue Origins’ VP of mission and flight operations Audrey Powers, former NASA engineer Chris Boshulzen, and vice chair for life sciences and healthcare at Dassault Systemes Glen de Vries. Sadly, de Vries was killed in a plane crash just a month later.
NS-18 launched into the wild blue yonder on October 13, 2021, from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site. Upon its return, Shatner, whom you can watch performing a spoken word version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” above, was overcome with emotion and moved to tears as he spoke to Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. “It’s so thin,” he exclaimed, attempting to describe his journey through the Earth’s atmosphere. “And you’re through it in an instant.”
The flight itself only lasted 10 minutes and 17 seconds, but it left an impression. Shatner told Bezos that he was “overwhelmed by sadness and empathy for this beautiful thing we call Earth.” He went on to describe the experience as “indescribable” and “the most profound experience I can imagine,” recommending, “everyone in the world needs to do this.”
A Promise Kept
Shatner appeared in conversation with filmmaker Kevin Smith at the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con, and the subject of the actor’s space flight came up. “I went, and I vowed that every moment that I spent in space, would not be playing around with weightlessness, but looking out the window and trying to get an impression,” Shatner said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
He seems to have honored that vow. A video taken during the flight shows him gazing at the Earth in awe through the vessel’s viewport. “When I went up there,” he told The Times in an August Interview, “and I could see the curvature of the Earth and the vast blackness surrounding it, it really hit home how much we don’t know and how we’re gambling with our planet.”
Worries for the Next Generation
The 91-year-old Shatner has three daughters: Leslie, Lisabeth and Melanie. “Star Trek” fans may remember Leslie and Lisabeth as two of the little girls in the Original Series’ season 1 episode “Miri.” Between the three girls, he has at least four grandchildren, two boys and two girls. The kids thought their granddad’s trip into the void of space was “so cool,” but his daughters were worried about the dangers of space travel and tried to persuade him not to go.
Shatner returned safe, but with concerns of his own, not for himself, but for his own descendants. “I couldn’t help but think about the terrible burden that Clive, my two-year-old great-grandchild, is facing when he gets older,” he told The Times, referring to humans’ disregard for the planet.
The profound effect left on Shatner by his star trek seems to have lingered. Perhaps he’s right. If everybody on planet Earth were able to spend 10 minutes in space, would it change the way they look at their home? Either way, the actor’s perspective seems to have shifted and he can’t stop talking about it.