VAN HORN, Texas (AP) — Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, blasted into space Wednesday, reaching the final frontier at last aboard a ship built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company.
The “Star Trek” actor and three fellow passengers hurtled to an altitude of 66.5 miles over the West Texas desert in the fully automated capsule, then safely parachuted back to Earth in a flight that lasted just over 10 minutes.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience,” an exhilarated Shatner told Bezos after climbing out of the hatch, the words spilling from him in a soliloquy almost as long as the flight. “I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”
Shatner said he was struck by the vulnerability of Earth and the relative sliver of its atmosphere: “Everybody in the world needs to do this. Everybody in the world needs to see,” he said.
Shatner became the oldest person in space, eclipsing the previous record — set by pilot Wally Funk, 82, during a similar jaunt on a Bezos spaceship in July — by eight years. The flight included about three minutes of weightlessness and a view of the curvature of the Earth.
Sci-fi fans reveled in the opportunity to see the man best known as the stalwart commander of the starship Enterprise boldly go where no star of American TV has gone before.
“This is a pinch-me moment for all of us to see Capt. James Tiberius Kirk go to space,” Blue Origin launch commentator Jacki Cortese said before the liftoff. She said she was drawn to the space business by shows like “Star Trek.”
The flight brought priceless star power to Bezos’ space-tourism business, given its built-in appeal to baby boomers, celebrity watchers and space enthusiasts. Shatner starred in TV’s original “Star Trek” from 1966 to 1969, back when the U.S. was racing for the moon, and went on to appear in a string of “Star Trek” movies.
Bezos is a huge “Star Trek” fan — the Amazon founder had a cameo as an alien in one of the later “Star Trek” movies — and Shatner rode for free as his invited guest.