Captain Kirk, the Star Trek star became a real astronaut

Entrance to Blue Origin’s takeoff site near Van Horn, West Texas, United States, October 11, 2021 – AFP

Actor William Shatner, who gave life to Captain Kirk from “Star Trek”, one of the most iconic characters in science fiction, became this Wednesday (13) a real-life space traveler in Blue Origin’s second manned mission.

“It was amazing,” said the 90-year-old Canadian actor, who couldn’t hold back his tears after spending 11 minutes in space.

The New Shepard rocket took off at 9:49 am (11:49 am GMT) after a two-day delay.

Shatner had Blue Origin executive Audrey Powers, Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen, and Glen de Vries, from Medidata Solutions health research platform, as flight companions.

Blue Origin’s founder, tycoon Jeff Bezos, greeted the crew as they left the pod to a shower of applause and champagne.

Like the nearly 600 astronauts who traveled before him, Shatner marveled at the experience of feeling zero gravity and the awesome view of Earth from space.

“It was the most profound experience I could ever imagine. I’m very moved by what has just happened,” Shatner told Bezos.

The mission replicated Blue Origin’s inaugural flight in July, which included Bezos himself and was seen as a turning point for the fledgling space tourism industry.

This time, attention turned to Shatner, who became the oldest human being to travel into space.

The intergalactic voyages of the “Enterprise”, the “Star Trek” spacecraft commanded by the character played by Shatner, spurred Americans to look more at the stars as NASA developed its space program in the 1960s.

“Captain Kirk […] it represents, perhaps more than anyone else, ‘the last frontier’ for several generations, in the United States and around the world,” series writer and historian Marc Cushman told AFP.

Shatner has said that he came to have a difficult relationship with the cultural fanaticism provoked by “Star Trek”.

However, in recent years, the actor has given up on the fame generated by his best-known performance.

“There seems to be a lot of curiosity surrounding this fictional character, Captain Kirk,” said the actor in a video released by Blue Origin. “To infinity and beyond, and let us enjoy the journey”.

– The battle for space tourism –

For Blue Origin, however, the second mission in less than three months was another step in its attempt to establish itself as a leader in space tourism.

Boshuizen and Vries increased the number of people who paid for the trip to three, after Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, who was on the first takeoff.

However, competition in space tourism is growing.

Virgin Galactic, which offers a similar experience of a few minutes of zero gravity and Earth view from the cosmos, launched a spacecraft with its founder, Richard Branson, in July, a few days before Bezos’s flight.

Also, in September, SpaceX – from Elon Musk – sent four people on a three-day trip around the planet, a much more ambitious effort, but also probably a lot more costly.

For many space enthusiasts, Shatner’s trip was the icing on the cake for the pop culture phenomenon that has inspired generations of astronauts, scientists and engineers.

“Star Trek” had a long association with NASA, whose scientists were given the first scripts to assess its accuracy, according to Cushman, the author.

“These scientists, like almost everyone in space agencies, were avid viewers of ‘Star Trek’ and understood well that the series’ popularity helped spark growing interest and funding for the space program,” he said.

A big fan of the series is Jeff Bezos himself, founder of Amazon. The tycoon even published on Instagram an art he made at the age of nine, which included a communication tool that influenced the design of a folding phone decades later.

Bezos also said that Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, was inspired by the “Enterprise” computer, which received voice commands. In addition, the mogul made a small appearance in the 2016 movie “Star Trek: Without Borders”.

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