Last week, we reported that William Shatner was the new addition to Blue Origin’s next mission which would make him the oldest person in space, and today, the trip to the edge of space was a success.
The Star Trek superstar who played Capt. James T. Kirk joined the passenger mission which took off at 10:49 a.m. ET from a launch site in West Texas – owned and operated by Blue Origin.
This is yet another successful passenger spaceflight mission by the Jeff Bezos-owned company via its New Shephard rocket.
The entire mission lasted for about 10 minutes via the autonomous space vehicle that is named after Alan Shepard who happens to be the first American to reach space.
They reached a height of about 66 miles, four miles beyond one measurement of what the US government considers to be called the edge of space where they are able to see the curves of the blue planet Earth and experienced moments of weightlessness.
Afterward, they descended back to Earth with the capsule touching down under huge parachutes in the desert.
The success of this mission is the second one and Shatner who is 90-years-old becomes the oldest homo sapien to have visited space – remember that!
After the mission, an emotional and philosophical Shatner rhapsodized about the experience to Bezos, who greeted the crew at the landing site and opened the spacecraft’s hatch.
In his words, Shatner compared his experience in the space rocket to whipping a comfortable blanket off in the morning. “And you’re staring into blackness,” he said. “That’s the thing.”
The line of the atmosphere, “which is keeping us alive, is thinner than your skin,” he said. “It’s a sliver. It’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe.”
The contrast of the bright colorful Earth and the inky vastness above was a metaphor for life and death, he said. “What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” he told Bezos. “I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope I maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”
So far, there have been a number of successful space missions from private organizations such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX all of which have conducted successful passenger space missions.
In fact, the number of private astronauts to have reached space has outgrown the number of those sent by NASA which is a new dawn in history as space is being opened to common individuals.
Shatner’s flight also makes it the sixth human spaceflight mission this year alone carrying civilian astronauts who have not received any government training.
It first started with Richard Branson via Virgin Galactic back in May. The company conducted two successful missions and not long afterward, Jeff Bezos himself along with other three private individuals took to space.
Then Elon Musk’s SpaceX conducted the Inspiration4 mission which carried a crew of four amateur astronauts into Earth’s orbit where they stayed for about three days inside the Dragon spacecraft.
Also, Russian actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko all went to the ISS to shoot a movie scene aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.
Virgin Galactic initially got grounded but is now permitted to fly again after defying some space regulations set by the US government. The company plans to conduct one more private mission as well as Blue Origin. Elsewhere Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and an assistant would fly to the ISS via Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Multiple private astronaut missions will then be conducted by 2022 and Axiom Space plans to fly a crew of four to the ISS on a SpaceX rocket.
While NASA had planned just two human spaceflight missions this year on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, about 21 private citizens have been to space this year so far and the number could be over 30 by the end of the year.
The space agency though has conducted its first mission back in April when it launched four humans to space, it will conduct another one by Oct. 30th where it will fly another four humans to the ISS.
“I think, in 50 years, we’ll look back at this year and go, ‘This was the beginning of actually the public’s movement into space and the opening up of the space frontier,’ ” Chris Boshuizen, one of the passengers on Wednesday’s flight, told Fox Business Network this week. “So I think it’s a really exciting time to be doing this with this crew.”
On Blue Origin’s second spaceflight mission, Shatner was joined by Audrey Powers, who oversees the New Shepard program as vice president of mission and flight operations, and was a former flight controller at NASA. Also on the flight were two paying customers: Boshuizen, the co-founder of Planet, which deploys Earth observation satellites, and Glen de Vries, the co-founder of Medidata Solutions, which uses technology to help pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
The amount paid for the mission by the private participants is still yet unknown however, the company is said to have sold its first flight to people who participated via an auction. (Virgin Galactic charges $450,000 for a seat on its suborbital space tourism flights.)
The flight comes as Blue Origin has faced allegations that its culture is toxic and its leadership is out of touch. Some women complained to The Post that they were subjected to condescending remarks that at times verged on harassment.
The company has said it takes all claims of harassment very seriously, investigates them and fires people when appropriate. It also said that the safety of the New Shepard system is rigorously tested and safe.
“Safety has always been our top priority,” Powers told “CBS This Morning” this week.
However, one of the company’s former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity was very critical of the company’s culture and leadership even though the person stated that the company has thoroughly tested the system. “I would fly on it in a heartbeat,” the person said.
Before the flight, a video of Shatner voicing his readiness was shared on Twitter on Tuesday where he was quoted as saying “I’m so ready, I’m thinking of jumping out of the capsule at apogee. That’s how ready I am.”
In another clip posted by Blue Origin, Shatner said he couldn’t wait to see Earth from above, “to see this gem, this warm, loving, nourishing planet.”
“I plan to be looking out the window with my nose pressed against the window,” he said. “The only thing I don’t want to see is a little gremlin looking back at me.”