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Star Trek's William Shatner has now flown in space for real!

Wednesday, October 13th 2021, 3:49 pm - Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has flown Captain Kirk to space and back!

After decades of portraying one of the best-known science fiction characters ever, William Shatner has now reached space for real.

Jeff Bezos' rocket company, Blue Origin, already made a name for itself by flying some famous people to the edge of space. Bezos, himself, was on the first crewed launch for the New Shepard rocket, and with him was his brother, Mark Bezos, as well as Oliver Daemen, who is now the youngest person to fly to space, and Wally Funk, one of the Mercury 13 — the 13 women who successfully completed the same astronaut training the original Mercury astronauts underwent back in the 1960s.

On Wednesday, October 13, at around 10:50 a.m. ET, the next New Shepard launch — NS-18 — blasted off from West Texas, carrying another four-person crew.

William-Shatner-New-Shepard-Launch-2-Blue-Origin-Oct13-2021The New Shepard rocket launches the NS-18 mission to space on Wednesday, October 13. Credit: Blue Origin

On board was Audrey Powers, Blue Origin's VP of Mission & Flight Operations, Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer who co-founded the Earth-observation company Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, the co-founder of the clinical research website Medidata. Also flying was another very special passenger — none other than Captain Kirk, himself, William Shatner.

After portraying James Tiberius Kirk, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, through three seasons of the original Star Trek television series, followed by seven feature films, Shatner is a pioneer for science fiction on both the small and big screens. Now, he's gone where no other living science fiction actor has gone before.

Upon landing, a very emotional Shatner related his experience. After witnessing how quickly the rocket passed from the blue of the atmosphere to the black of space, he remarked how you can hear others say how thin the atmosphere is, and how fragile the Earth is, but he was astonished by how profoundly it affected him.

"This is what I never expected," Shatner said to Jeff Bezos upon landing, remarking that they had flown through the blue of the atmosphere and reached the black of space so quickly. "It's like a beat, and a beat, and you're through the blue, and you're into black."

William-Shatner-Landing-Blue-Origin-Oct13-2021William Shatner stands with Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, near the RSS First Step capsule, as he relates his experience on the flight after touchdown on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Credit: Blue Origin

The impact this experience has on astronauts is so common, it has a name. It's called the overview effect. Seeing the blackness of space and the danger it represents, and then looking down at our life-bearing planet below, as well as seeing the relatively thin layer of atmosphere that protects us, all highlights just how precious Earth is, and emphasizes how we need to preserve it.

Rewatch the launch, below:

At 90, Shatner is now the oldest person to travel to space.

2021-10-04T164128Z 1943929312 RC2Z2Q97G6SG RTRMADP 3 SPACE-EXPLORATION-BLUE-ORIGINWilliam Shatner tours the launch tower with Blue Origin's Sarah Knights at Launch Site One near Van Horn, Texas. Credits: Blue Origin/Handout via REUTERS.

Shatner is not the first science fiction actor — ever — to reach space for real. Technically, fellow Star Trek actor James Doohan, who died in 2005, made the journey first, although he did so posthumously. Space tourist Richard Garriot helped make that happen. At the request of Doohan's son, Chris, Garriott smuggled some of his father's ashes onto the International Space Station during his visit in 2008. The ashes, which were sealed inside laminated cards with James Doohan's photograph, made the trip to space and back.

Four years later, in 2012, more of Doohan's ashes made a more official and well-known journey to space. His ashes were carried into orbit, along with those of over 300 other people (including those of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper), on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched the first Dragon cargo ship to dock with the ISS. Stowed in a container attached to the rocket's 2nd stage, the ashes would have spent roughly a year orbiting Earth before burning up upon reentry.

Blue Origin space launch _ reuters graphicThis infographic details the components of the New Shepard rocket and the launch sequence of the booster and the passenger capsule. Credit: Blue Origin/Reuters

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