Legendary Star Trek actor, Captain Kirk himself, Wiliam Shatner is off to space today to boldly go where an increasing number of civilians have now gone. But the 90-year-old actor, who will be the oldest person to go to space, is clearly excited, and we can't begrudge him that.
“I’ve heard about space for a long time now. I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle,” the actor said in a statement.
Shatner will become the latest civilian "rocket man" to go to space thanks to an invitation by Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, and is set to launch on the New Shepherd rocket today at 9:00 am EDT (2:00 pm UTC) after the flight got pushed back from yesterday due to wind conditions in Texas.
Shatner's flight, which comes three months after Bezos's own trip to space, and Blue Origin's first-ever crewed trip, is a bit of a PR coup for the space company, which is currently facing accusations of sexism in the workplace by current and former employees who have also expressed safety concerns.
Shatner admitted to being "terrified" at a Comic Con panel discussion in New York last week, citing the 1986 Challenger disaster.
“I’m terrified. I’m Captain Kirk and I’m terrified. I’m not really terrified – yes I am... It comes and goes like a summer cold," Shatner said. "I’m planning on putting my nose against the window [once I’m in space], and my only hope is I won’t see someone else looking back.”
Shatner's main concern, however, appears to be getting in and out of the seats. “The only thing about age that has application to this particular vehicle is getting in and out of the seat with any kind of arthritis,” Shatner told reporters on Monday.
“So unless you’re really supple, getting in and out of the seats in weight, when we’re in gravity, is a chore. But of course, it’s designed [for us] to float out of the seat, in weightlessness.”
Shatner will not only be the oldest person to ever go to space, beating Mercury 13 legend Wally Funk, who at 82 and another guest of Blue Origin recently held the title, but will also be become the first sci-fi actor to leave the atmosphere.
He will be joined by Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Planet Labs and a former NASA engineer, Glen de Vries of French software company Dassault Systèmes, and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations and a former flight controller with NASA.
The flight will last about 11 minutes, reaching about 106 kilometers (66 miles) up, and will include a short section of microgravity, allowing the actor to experience first-hand what space truly feels like. Launching from Launch Site One in West Texas, you can follow the launch and live stream on the Blue Origin website or its YouTube channel.
Shatner would have been the first actor in space if Russia hadn't just launched the world's first film crew, including actor and director, to the ISS to start filming the first feature-length movie in space.
With Tom Cruise rumored to be in line for filming a movie in space too, it's going to start looking pretty crowded up there.