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Blue Origin New Shepard launch: Star Trek icon William Shatner becomes world’s oldest astronaut

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After playing an explorer of the universe, William Shatner — Captain James Kirk of Star Trek fame — did it for real on Wednesday, at 90, the oldest in space on a rocketship flown by billionaire Jeff Bezos’s company Blue became a person. Genesis, an experience the actor called profound.

Shatner was one of four passengers who traveled to the edge of space for 10 minutes and 17 seconds aboard the white fully autonomous 60-foot-tall (18.3 m high) New Shepard spacecraft, which carried the launch of Blue Origin. The flight took off about 20 miles from the site. (32km) outside the rural West Texas town of Van Horn.

The crew capsule returned to the Texas desert by parachute suborbital flight, raising a cloud of dust. Shatner emerged awkwardly from the capsule in the desert’s silence, appearing contemplative as others and celebrated by cheering and popping champagne bottles.

Bezos was at hand and hugged Shatner, who was wearing a hat and blue flight suit with the company’s name in white letters on one sleeve.

“What you’ve given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” Shatner told Bezos as the two chatted for several minutes. “I am filled with emotions about what just happened.”

The all-civilian crew experienced a few minutes of weightlessness, covering a distance of about 65.8 miles (106 km) above Earth’s surface—exceeding the internationally recognized boundary of space, known as the Line of Karman. It is known to be about 62 miles (100 km) above Earth.

It marked the second space tourism flight for Blue Origin, the company Bezos – Amazon’s founder and current executive chairman – founded two decades ago. Bezos made the first flight in July.

Shatner – who embodied the promise of space travel in the 1960s classic TV series Star Trek and seven subsequent films – said he had prepared himself to experience the weightlessness, but the beauty and beauty of the blue Earth. Stunned by the dramatic contrast of the blackness of space. .

“You’re looking into the blackness, into the black ugliness,” Shatner said. “And you look down, there’s blue down there—and there’s black—and that’s it, there’s Mother Earth.”

“This is life and that is death, and in an instant, you know — whoa — that’s death,” Shatner said. “That’s what I saw.”

“Is that how death is?” Shatner asked.

Before the flight, each of the astronauts rang the bell and then entered the capsule atop the rocketship, with Bezos closing the hatch. The winds were light and the skies were clear for the launch held after two delays totaling about 45 minutes.

Joining Shatner were former NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen, clinical research entrepreneur Glenn de Vries and Blue Origin vice president and engineer Audrey Powers.

‘beam me up’

Shatner, who turns 90 in March, has been acting since the 1950s and keeps busy with entertainment projects and fan conventions. He is best known for starring as James Tiberius Kirk, the captain of the starship Enterprise, on Star Trek.

During the opening credits of each episode of the series, he called space the “final frontier” and promised “to explore strange new worlds, to seek new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man Haven’t gone before.”

“Beam me up,” Shatner’s character would tell Enterprise’s chief engineer Scotty, in a memorable catchphrase, played by James Doohan, when he needed to be taken to the starship.

Shatner’s involvement helped generate hype for Blue Origin as it competes against two billionaire-backed rivals — Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic — that offer customers large sums of money to experience spaceflight. willing to pay.

The flight represented another momentous day for the budding space tourism industry, which, according to UBS, could reach an annual value of $3 billion (about Rs 22,590 crore) in a decade.

Blue Origin made a successful first space tourism flight on July 20, with Bezos and three others aboard a 10-minute and 10-second journey. In that flight, at the age of 82, leading female aviator Wally Funk became the oldest person to reach space. The previous record was set in 1998 when pioneer astronaut John Glenn returned to space as a 77-year-old US senator.

Branson inaugurated its space tourism service on July 11, with six others aboard a suborbital flight. SpaceX began its space tourism business by flying the first all-citizen crew to reach Earth orbit in a three-day mission that ends on Sept. 18.

In his annual address to world leaders last month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres criticized “billionaires who travel to space, while millions of people on Earth go hungry.”

Asked about Shatner’s flight, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday that Guterres “continues to believe a lot in what he said at the General Assembly.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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