Star Trek actor William Shatner became the oldest human in space, at the age of 90, in a brief but successful second crewed flight on Wednesday of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket from the desert from West Texas.
The Canadian, who for four decades played Captain James Kirk, the fearless commander of the USS Enterprise, was invited by private space company founder and Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos to join three civilian teammates for the jump from almost 11 minutes to the stars.
Bezos, who has sold $ 100 million in tickets for future rides and aims to dominate the nascent space tourism industry, acted as a driver for Shatner and his colleagues during the short drive this morning from the crew seat. from Blue Origin to the launch pad at Van Horn.
The 57-year-old billionaire, who was on board the first crewed flight of his own spacecraft in July, posed at the launch site for photographs and closed the hatch after the crew entered the capsule approximately one hour before 9:49 am CT (3:49 pm). BST) takes off in the clear blue Texas sky.
“I guess that’s it, huh?” Shatner said, realizing he was about to experience real space travel after decades of fictional intergalactic travel.
Wednesday’s flight, dubbed Mission NS-18, the 18th total flight for the capsule named in honor of Alan Shepard, the first American in space in 1961, has been pushed back a day from Tuesday due to high winds, and still delayed from its scheduled time of 8:30 am. am by unspecified rocket problems.
Shatner captured the mantle of the oldest space traveler from Wally Funk, an 82-year-old former test pilot who flew with Bezos. “Together, we will cross new frontiers and set new records. Godspeed, ”said Funk, who trained as a NASA astronaut in the 1960s but never flew, in a pre-flight message read to the crew.
Jeff Bezos’ brother Mark, a third of the July crew, was more succinct. “You lucky bastards,” he said.
The US space agency Nasa has also tweeted a good luck message to Shatner. “We wish you the best on your flight to space. You are and always will be our friend, ”he said.
After separating from its booster rocket, the New Shepard capsule reached a maximum altitude of 66.5 miles, beyond the 100 km (62 mile) Kármán Line internationally recognized as the limit of space. , giving the crew three to four minutes of weightlessness.
After re-entering the atmosphere, the capsule fell back to earth and made a soft touch guided by three parachutes nearly 10 minutes and 30 seconds after takeoff. New Shepard’s reusable booster has landed safely again after nearly eight minutes of flight.
Shatner’s other three passengers were Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin executive; Chris Boshuizen, former NASA engineer and founder of satellite imagery company Planet Labs; and Glen de Vries, managing director of clinical research company Medidata Solutions.