VAN HORN, Texas – William Shatner has boldly gone where no 90-year-old man has gone before.
The famous “Star Trek” actor and three other private crew members launched into space today (October 13) on a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket, marking the second time Blue Origin has successfully launched a manned suborbital mission in your vehicle for space tourism. Nicknamed NS-18, it was flight number 18 of a New Shepard vehicle overall.
“That was unlike anything they described,” Shatner was heard saying over a radio link as the capsule parachuted back to Earth.
“Everybody needs to do this,” he told Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos after landing. “That was incredible”.
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(Image credit: Blue Origin)
The New Shepard reusable rocket and capsule lifted off from Blue Origin Launch Site One, just north of the west Texas town of Van Horn, at 9:50 a.m. local time (10:50 a.m. EDT; 1450 GMT). After an 11-minute flight, during which the crew experienced about four minutes of weightlessness in outer space, the capsule returned the crew safely to Earth with a parachute-assisted landing near the Blue Origin facility in West Texas.
The rocket, which separated from the capsule after lifting the crew into space, also successfully executed a vertical landing about seven minutes after lift-off, landing just 2 miles (3 kilometers) north of the launch pad.
Shatner is now the oldest person to ever fly into space, beating the record set by 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, who flew the first crewed flight of Blue Origin with company founder Jeff Bezos. , the 20th of July.
However, Shatner, also known as Captain Kirk, is not the first “Star Trek” actor to fly into space; That title goes to NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, who appeared in an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” (Jemison, who served as a mission specialist on the space shuttle Endeavor in 1992, was also the first black woman to fly into space.) The ashes of the late actors James Doohan, who played Scotty on Star Trek, and Majel Barrett Roddenberry (who voiced the computer and played Lwaxana Troi on The Next Generation, have also been launched into space, as have the from Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
Joining Shatner on the NS-18 mission were three other private crewmembers, including Audrey Powers, vice president of flight and mission operations for Blue Origin; Glen de Vries, vice president of life sciences and healthcare at French software company Dassault Systèmes; and Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Planet, a San Francisco-based Earth observation company.
Related: Meet William Shatner’s Real-Life Space Team for the Blue Origin Launch
(Image credit: Blue Origin)
While Boshuizen and de Vries paid for their seats at New Shepard (Blue Origin did not say how much they paid) Powers joined the mission as part of his professional role at Blue Origin. Before assuming her current position with the company, Powers served as a space engineer and lawyer, and was previously a flight controller for NASA’s International Space Station program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Just an hour before launch, Blue Origin handed each passenger a challenge coin signifying the completion of their training. The presentation of the coin, which Blue Origin broadcasts live, is a new company tradition. Shatner had a bit of fun with the coin and offered to flip it to decide whether to flip it.
“Let’s go to the face, not to the cross!” joked.
During their flight, the crew traveled just above the Kármán line, an internationally recognized boundary of space, which is about 62 miles (100 km) above sea level.
Shatner was visibly moved by the experience and seemed to cry as he tried to describe it.
“What he’s given me is the most profound experience I could imagine,” Shatner told Bezos after the launch.
Blue Origin plans to eventually begin launching regular space tourism flights on its New Shepard rockets, though the company has yet to say when it will start selling tickets, or how much those tickets will cost.
The company auctioned off a seat on its maiden flight with Bezos in July, and that seat sold for $ 28 million. Blue Origin did not disclose how much NS-18 paying customers spent on their tickets. Blue Origin competitor Virgin Galactic currently sells suborbital flights on its space plane for $ 450,000 per seat.
Those who wish to purchase a ticket on a New Shepard flight can register here to “receive early access to pricing and ticket information,” says the Blue Origin website.
Wednesday’s launch came at a somewhat turbulent time for Blue Origin, which is involved in a public lawsuit with NASA over the rival SpaceX agency’s selection for astronaut lunar landers. The company was also accused of fostering a toxic and unsafe work environment, by a group of 21 past and current employees, in an article posted on the Lioness website.
Blue Origin disputed those claims, telling Space.com in an email that the company “does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind.”
Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@ or follow her at @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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