Star Trek actor William Shatner became a space traveler after Blue Origin's second crewed missions Wednesday. He called it the most profound experience in his life.
The 90-year old Canadian said, "It was incredible," and referred to his role as Captain James T. Kirk. This is a role he played for the first time more than 50 years ago.
On the 11-minute trip beyond Earth's atmosphere, he was joined by three others: Audrey Powers, Blue Origin executive, Chris Boshuizen (Plant Labs cofounder) and Glen de Vries (Medidata Solutions).
After two short delays, a New Shepard rocket launched from its West Texas base at 9:49 AM (1449 GMT). It reached 66 miles (106 km) above the sea level after completing the flight.
William Shatner on the New Shepard rocket landing platform. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP
As the crew members climbed out from the capsule that parachute-landed on deserted terrain, Jeff Bezos, the founder, was there to greet them. He also gave them champagne and applause.
Shatner, like the nearly 600 astronauts before him, marveled at the sensation of weightlessness as well as the breathtaking view of the world from space.
"What you gave me is the most profound experience that I can imagine. He said, moving to tears, "I'm so full of emotion about what just occurred."
He later stated to reporters, "What you're seeing is Mother Earth. It needs to be protected."
This mission was a repeat of Bezos' maiden human flight in July. It was considered a landmark moment for the emerging space tourism sector.
All attention was on Shatner this time, who became the oldest astronaut ever, despite his appearance that suggested he was decades younger.
Shatner's Kirk character commanded the USS Enterprise on intergalactic missions. This helped to turn American attention towards the stars, as the US space program was just beginning.
Marc Cushman, a Trek historian and screenwriter, said that Captain Kirk "represents 'the last frontier' perhaps more than any other for a couple of different generations of people in the US and around the world."
Shatner is also well-known for his role in Boston Legal as Denny Crane, a lawyer. He has spoken previously about a sometimes difficult relationship with Star Trek's fan culture and Star Trek.
In recent years, however, the actor has taken advantage of the fame that he gained from his most iconic role.
When Shatner was asked by AFP to describe the overwhelming support he received from his fans and the wider community since the announcement of the mission, he replied that he was overwhelmed by the response.
Space tourism heating up
Blue Origin's second mission in three months is a step in the right direction as it seeks to be the leader of space tourism.
After Oliver Daemen, a Dutch teenager, Boshuizen and Vries increased the company's number of customers to three.
The sector is experiencing increased competition.
Virgin Galactic, which provides a similar experience, with a few minutes of weightlessness and a view from the cosmos of the Earth's curvature, was launched by Richard Branson in July. This happened a few days ahead of Bezos.
SpaceX also sent four individuals on a three-day trip to the planet in September. This was a far more ambitious but likely much more costly endeavor.
Many space enthusiasts viewed Shatner's trip as a fitting conclusion to a pop culture phenomenon that has inspired generations of scientists, astronauts, and engineers.
Cushman said that the show has been associated with NASA for a long time. NASA scientists were given early scripts to verify their accuracy.
He said that scientists at the agencies were also avid Star Trek fans, as was almost everyone else. They understood that Star Trek's popularity helped to increase funding and interest in the program.
Bezos is another mega-fan.
Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, shared an Instagram post with Star Trek artwork that he created when he was nine years of age.
Bezos stated that Amazon's Alexa voice assistant was inspired from the Enterprise conversational computer. He even appeared as an alien in Star Trek Beyond 2016, sporting an egg-shaped head.