90-year-old Captain Kirk blasts into space, returns in 10 minutes

Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, blasted into space this week in a convergence of science fiction and science reality. Shatner and three fellow passengers hurtled to an altitude of 66.5 miles (107 kilometers) 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.

Tearing through the final frontier, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk were aboard a ship built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company. “What you have given me is the most profound experience,” an exhilarated Shatner told Bezos after emerging from the capsule, 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.”

Captain Kirk moved by the experience

Exhilarated as he was, Shatner aka Captain Kirk said going from the blue sky to the utter blackness of space was a moving experience: “In an instant you go, whoa, that’s death. That’s what I saw.”

Sci-fi fans reveled in the opportunity to see the man best known as the stalwart Capt. James T. Kirk or Captain Kirk 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 liftoff. She said she, like so many others, was drawn to the space business by shows like Star Trek. She said Captain Kirk had also driven many to be motivated for such episodes.

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Jeff 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 William Shatner aka Captain Kirk rode free as his invited guest.

The blastoff brought priceless star power to Bezos’ spaceship company, 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 himself drove the four crew members to the pad, accompanied them to the platform high above the ground and cranked the hatch shut after they climbed aboard the 60-foot rocket. A jubilant Bezos was there to greet them when the capsule floated back to Earth under its brilliant blue-and-red parachutes.

Bezos welcomes back astronauts

“Hello, astronauts. Welcome to Earth!” Bezos said as he opened the hatch of the New Shepard capsule, named after the first American in space, Alan Shepard. Talking further about his experience, Captain Kirk 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.

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“To see the blue color whip by and now you’re staring into blackness, that’s the thing. The covering of blue, this sheath, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around, we say, ‘Oh, that’s blue sky.’ And then suddenly you shoot through it all, and you’re looking into blackness, into black ugliness.”

He said the return to Earth was more jolting than his training led him to expect and made him wonder whether he was going to make it home alive. “Everything is much more powerful,” he said. “Bang, this thing hits. That wasn’t anything like the simulator. … Am I going to be able to survive the G-forces? Am I going to be able to survive it?”

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