To Boldly Go

Today, we split our infinitives and send a fictional Starfleet captain into real space!

The headlines on Stardate 99382.18 were dominated by Captain Kirk’s excursion into space, via Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle. To us normies, that date translates to 13 October 2021 and the occupant was William Shatner, the beloved actor from the original Star Trek series.

Beyond the flavor connection to Shatner and his famous role, he also created a bit of cosmic history. By pushing past the official definition of the atmosphere-space boundary, Shatner became the oldest human to exit the planet, at the young age of 90 years!

The crew of Blue Origin NS-18, including William Shatner

Born in 1931 in Canada, Shatner rocketed to fame in 1966 as James T. Kirk, the captain of the original Star Trek crew. Though the series only lasted from 1966-1969, Shatner appeared as Kirk through the early 1990s in six feature-length Star Trek films.

He also starred in one of the most memorable episodes of The Twilight Zone. “There’s a man out there!” He hosted Rescue 911 for seven seasons. He continued prominence through the 2000s, by starring in Boston Legal. Kids today might recognize him as the Priceline guy in advertisements.

But in 2021, Shatner wasn’t screaming at Khan, he was screaming with joy as he became a space tourist.

Unlike Kirk’s voyages on Starship Enterprise, his trek on Blue Origin’s New Shepard was a mere blip, over in minutes, yet certainly the trip of a lifetime.

The carrier is billed as “a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing, crew-rated suborbital launch vehicle,” named for the first American in space, Alan Shepard. Today’s launch was the second occupied excursion from Blue Origin after founder and funder Jeff Bezos took the virgin flight in July.

The camera coverage of the blast-off and return is so phenomenal it almost seems fake. Check out the replay below, which kicks of with 60 seconds until ignition.

Once a seemingly impossible dream, space tourism seems to be a coming reality. If you can afford it.

How much does a seat on New Shepard cost? Blue Origin and Bezos currently will not publicly disclose their pricing. Reuters reports the company initially stated, in 2018, a ticket would run $200,000 to $300,000. Rivals Virgin Galactic purportedly just upped their asking rate from 250k to $450,000. Yet, a spot on the first trip via New Shepard reached an auction price of $28 million! More substantial, orbital flights are significantly more expensive. Three humans will pay $55 million each next year to travel to the International Space Station. While that ISS sticker might be shocking, the 450k price for suborbital flight only gets you about 10 minutes of ride time.

It seems the best way to currently get to space is to spend your life training to become a state-sponsored astronaut, know a billionaire, or be as hip and talented as William Shatner.

Now that Shatner is a true Rocket Man, now that he has boldly gone where few have gone before, he has a new perspective on the universe. If there’s one thing we love around The Mountains Are Calling Headquarters, it’s a human who feels nature and the cosmos passionately. We can’t get enough and Shatner delivered with a description of his experience. The joy in the background as he expresses his ecstasy to a robot appearing in place of Jeff Bezos is intoxicating.

“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”

Further Reading and Exploration

William Shatner, TV’s Capt. Kirk, blasts into space – Associated Press

Blue Origin – Official website

What a Ticket on Jeff Bezos’ Rocket Will Cost You – Slate

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