William Shatner, the actor whose fictional mission was “to boldly go where no man has gone before”, will today become the oldest person to ever travel to the edge of space.
The 90-year-old Canadian star, who played Captain Kirk in the iconic 1960s television series Star Trek, will be part of a crew of four aboard a Blue origin rocket when it takes off from the Texas desert.
Shatner was invited to participate in the mission by billionaire Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, a huge Star Trek fan, as the battle for bragging rights in the space tourism race intensifies.
Take-off was delayed for 24 hours due to high winds at the launch site.
“I’m thrilled and anxious and a little nervous and a little scared with this brand new adventure,” Shatner said.
“But I have to think that once it’s done, once I’ve been in space and seen the universe and seen our Earth and the contrast between that hostility and that heat, and how important it is to keep the Earth alive so that we don’t destroy it, we humans don’t destroy it, that contrast in all of that is so dramatic to me. “
The trip will only last ten minutes, propelling the crew 66 miles above the Earth’s surface to experience a few minutes of weightlessness, before parachuting back onto the desert floor.
This will be Blue Origin’s second crewed flight.
In July, Bezos himself was the first with his brother, an 18-year-old Dutch student and 82-year-old aviation pioneer, Wally Funk, who became the oldest person in space, a record that Shatner will beat.
He will be joined by Audrey Powers, vice president and engineer of Blue Origin, and paying clients Glen de Vries, clinical research entrepreneur and Chris Boshuizen, former NASA engineer.
They participated in an auction for a seat on the first flight, a seat that cost $ 28 million.
Shatner rose to fame playing the Commander of the Starship Enterprise for three years, from 1966 to 1969. He also appeared as Captain James T. Kirk in seven films.
Two other major Star Trek figures managed to get to space before him, sort of.
The ashes of creator Gene Roddenberry and actor James Doohan, who played Scotty, were hurled into space after their deaths.
This latest launch comes as Blue Origin has come under fire from a number of former employees for what they have described as a toxic and sexist work culture.
In response, the company said it had no tolerance for discrimination or harassment and would investigate any complaints made.
The company claims to have sold nearly $ 100 million worth of tickets to paying customers who want to follow Bezos and Shatner to the edge of space.
The cost of each was not disclosed.
Shatner said: “I really want to tell you the message I get firsthand seeing things that we only heard about, things that I only played as an actor, I’m going to see. firsthand.
“These things that we only learned on the second or third hand. I’m going to be first hand in space.”