William Shatner, the 90-year veteran of countless imaginary space voyages playing Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, took off for real Wednesday, becoming the oldest person to reach the Last Frontier in a PR boon for Jeff Bezos and his rocket company Blue Origin.
For about 10 minutes,took off on top of a hydrogen rocket, climbed to the edge of space over 100 km, and enjoyed three to four minutes of weightlessness, as well as spectacular views of Earth, before plunging back into a soft landing assisted by parachute.
“It was so emotional for me,” Shatner said after landing. “This experience is something incredible.”
He said he was overwhelmed and that Bezos gave him the most profound experience he could imagine. “I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened… it’s amazing,” he told Bezos.
The flight was only the second crewed launch of a New Shepard capsule since Bezos, his 82-year-old aviation pioneer brother Mark.and Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen took off on July 20 .
Shatner eclipsed Funk’s age record of eight and John Glenn’s of 13.
“I want to see space, I want to see Earth, I want to see what we have to do to save Earth,” Shatner told Gayle King on “CBS Mornings” before the launch. “I want to have a perspective that has never been shown to me before. That’s what interests me to see.”
Boshuizen and de Vries paid undisclosed sums for their seats aboard the New Shepard spacecraft, butwas a guest of Blue Origin. Powers, a former NASA flight controller now vice president of flight operations at Blue Origin, flew as a representative for the company.
While the New Shepard rocket and capsule are only capable of suborbital top-to-bottom flight, Shatner and his teammates experienced the same takeoff accelerations that space shuttle astronauts once felt – about three times the normal force of gravity – and even higher “G loads” during descent into the lower atmosphere.
Despite this, Shatner and his teammates were considered passengers, not astronauts, aboard the automated New Shepard. But professional astronauts have nonetheless welcomed them into the fraternity of space travelers.
“I’m impressed. I mean, he’s 90 years old and shows that someone his age can actually fly in space,” Matthias Maurer, a European Space Agency astronaut flying to CBS, told CBS. the International Space Station at the end of the month. New.
“Even though this is, let’s say, just a suborbital flight, I’m very impressed and wish him all the best. I hope this will be the experience of a lifetime. And yes, I am. hope that many more people will follow its steps and also experience the space. “
Added Kayla Barron, a Navy submariner who flies to the station with Maurer and two others aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule: “This is really great! Like who wouldn’t want to see William Shatner flying in the ‘space? Like, I don’t know someone who wouldn’t. “
“For us, looking at these new companies with different missions, different equipment, different architectures on how they plan to bring more humans into human spaceflight is just a victory for all of us,” a- she declared. “So we’re really excited to watch this flight for sure.”
Blue Origin’s 18th New Shepard flight began at 10:49 a.m. EDT when the BE-3 engine powering the company’s 53-foot-tall thruster ignited with a roar, sped up to 110,000 pounds of thrust and took off from the company’s launch site 1. West Texas launch site near Van Horn.
As it climbed straight up, the booster quickly accelerated as it consumed propellant and lost weight, reaching a speed of about 2,200 mph and an altitude of about 170,000 feet before the engine shut down.
The New Shepard capsule then separated from the thruster at an altitude of about 45 miles and the two continued to climb on ballistic paths, but slowing rapidly.
The onset of weightlessness began shortly after the separation. The four passengers were free to detach and float as the capsule reached the top of its course and braced itself for the long drop to Earth.
The New Shepard capsule is fitted with some of the largest windows on a spacecraft currently in flight, giving Shatner, de Vries, Boshuizen, and Powers panoramic views of the Earth far below.
Plunging into the dense lower atmosphere, the passengers, back in their padded, reclining seats, were briefly subjected to more than five times the normal force of gravity before three large parachutes deployed and inflated, slowing the craft to the ground. about 15 mph.
An instant before landing, the compressed air thrusters were programmed to fire, slowing the ship to just 2 mph or more for landing.
A few minutes earlier, the New Shepard booster took off for an accurate landing a few miles away, reigniting its BE-3 engine, deploying four landing legs and settling on a concrete landing pad. Assuming no issues are found, the rocket will be refurbished and prepared for another flight.
The mission marked the sixth commercial non-government sub-orbital space flight to be piloted in a high-stakes competition between Bezos’ Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson.
Virgin launched four manned flights of its winged VSS Unity space plane, most recently, two pilots and three company teammates on July 11. At least one more flight is scheduled this year, with three researchers representing the Italian Air Force on board, before commercial passenger flights begin next year.
Blue Origin followed Bezos’ flight by launching a series of NASA experiments on an unmanned mission on August 26. Wednesday’s flight was the company’s 18th overall and the second with passengers on board.
“I think it’s pretty amazing that 2021 is the year the human race finally begins to go to space on a large scale,” Boshuizen told “CBS Mornings” ahead of the launch.
“I think we’re going to go back to that date in 50 years and go, wow, that was really a special time in history, just like the Wright brothers, when people started flying passenger planes. is really exciting to be a part of history. “