VAN HORN Texas William Shatner boldly went where no 90-year old has gone before
Today's launch by Blue Origin New Shepard rocket (Oct. 13), saw the famous "Star Trek" actor and three private crewmembers go into space. This marks the second successful launch of a crewed suborbital mission using its vehicle for space tourism. It was the 18th New Shepard flight overall.
Shatner said, via radio link, "That was unlike any they described," as the capsule was parachuted back to Earth.
After landing, he said to Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos that "Everyone in the world should do this." "That was amazing."
Blue Origin's Launch Site One in West Texas was the launch site for the reusable New Shepard capsule and rocket. It lifted off at 9:49 AM local time (11:49 A.M. EDT; 1449 GMT). The capsule safely returned the crew to Earth after a 10-minute flight in which they experienced approximately four minutes of weightlessness. This was done using a parachute-assisted landing close to Blue Origin's West Texas facilities.
After lifting the crew into space, the rocket separated from the capsule and made an upright landing within seven minutes. It landed just 2 miles (3 km) north of its launchpad. The capsule reached an altitude of almost 66 miles (106km), four miles above the internationally recognized boundary of space.
Shatner is now considered the oldest person to fly to space. He beat Wally Funk (82 years old), who was the pioneer of aviation and flew Blue Origin's first crewed flight on July 20.
Shatner, the "Star Trek" actor who plays Captain Kirk, was not the first to go to space. That honor goes to Mae Jemison, a NASA astronaut, who appeared on an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Jemison was also the first Black woman who flew to space. She served as a mission specialist aboard the Endeavour spacecraft in 1992. The remains of James Doohan (who played Scotty on Star Trek) and Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who voiced Lwaxana Trii on The Next Generation, were also launched into space.
Shatner was joined by three private crew members on the NS-18 mission: Audrey Powers (Blue Origin's vice president for mission and flight operations); Glen de Vries (vice chair for life sciences at French software company Dassault Systmes); and Chris Boshuizen (co-founder of Planet, a San Francisco-based Earth observation firm.
After launch, de Vries said that it was "incredible", and added that he was still processing the experience.
Boshuizen & de Vries did not disclose how much they paid Powers to join the mission. Powers was an engineer and a lawyer before she took on the current role at the company. She was also previously a flight controller for NASA’s International Space Station program at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
One hour prior to launch, Seven Sarah Knights, a Blue Origin Crew Member presented each passenger with a challenge coins. This was to signify their completion of training. Blue Origin's new tradition of presenting coins to passengers is the live webcast. Shatner had some fun with the coin and offered to flip it in order to decide whether or not to launch.
"Heads go, tails stay put!" He laughed.
Bezos drove the crew to Launch Site One on an electric Rivian truck with Shatner sitting in the middle seat, just like he would on the bridge of "Star Trek". Bezos followed the crew to their capsule. They rang the ship's bell on the way to New Shepard. Bezos presented each crewmember with Blue Origin astronaut wings shortly after they departed their capsule at the West Texas desert landing site.
Bezos stated, "Okay guys, there are four astronauts before us."
The crew flew just above the Krmn Line, an internationally recognized boundary for space. It is approximately 62 miles (100km) above sea level.
Shatner was visibly moved and wiped away tears as he attempted to describe the experience.
After launch, Shatner said to Bezos that "What you have given" was the most profound experience he could imagine.
Blue Origin hopes to launch regular space tourism flights using its New Shepard rockets. However, the company has yet to announce when or how much tickets will be sold.
In July, the company sold a seat on its inaugural flight to Bezos for $28 million. Blue Origin didn't disclose the amount that NS-18's paying customers spent on their tickets. Blue Origin's rival Virgin Galactic currently sells suborbital space flights on its spaceplan for $450,000 per person.
Blue Origin states that anyone who wishes to purchase a New Shepard flight ticket can sign up right here.
Blue Origin is currently in a turbulent time. They are fighting a lawsuit against NASA for selecting rival SpaceX to launch astronaut lunar landers. In an article published on the website Lioness, 21 former and current employees also claimed that Blue Origin created a hostile and unsafe work environment.
Blue Origin denied these claims and told Space.com via email that it "has no tolerance whatsoever for discrimination or harassment."
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