More than 50 years after he debuted as the beloved Capt. James T. Kirk in the original series of “Star Trek,” William Shatner is set to boldly go to the edge of space.
The 90-year-old actor is scheduled to launch Wednesday aboard a rocket and capsule developed by Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. If successful, the joyride will make Shatner the oldest person to reach space.
“I’ve heard about space for a long time now,” he said in a statement released earlier this month. “I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle.”
Shatner and three other crew members — Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, and two paying customers, Glen de Vries and Chris Boshuizen — will ride Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and capsule to the edge of space. Liftoff is scheduled to occur at around 10:30 a.m. ET and the flight is expected to last roughly 10 minutes.
The mission was delayed nearly 30 minute as crews at the launch pad worked to ensure that the rocket was ready for flight. Previously, high winds at the Texas launch site also forced Blue Origin to push the expedition from its originally scheduled time earlier in the week.
In an interview last week with NBC’s “TODAY” show, Shatner spoke about his anticipation for the upcoming flight.
“I’m going to see the vastness of space and the extraordinary miracle of our Earth and how fragile it is compared to the forces at work in the universe — that’s really what I’m looking for,” he said.
Shatner’s trip will be Blue Origin’s second launch of an all-civilian crew. The company’s inaugural flight in July was a high-profile and high-stakes event, with Bezos, his brother and two other passengers onboard.
The New Shepard rocket and capsule are designed for suborbital jaunts, which don’t actually enter into orbit around Earth but rather fly to the edge of space, at an altitude of more than 65 miles, where passengers can experience around four minutes of weightlessness.
Wednesday’s flight will launch from a site in west Texas, southeast of El Paso. After liftoff, the rocket will accelerate toward space at three times the speed of sound. At an altitude of 250,000 feet, the New Shepard capsule will separate, taking Shatner and his crew members to the edge of space.
The craft will then descend under parachutes and land again in the Texas desert.
Shatner’s expedition is the latest in what has been a recent flurry of space tourism flights. Nine days before Bezos flew to the edge of space, British billionaire Richard Branson completed his own suborbital joyride, riding aboard a rocket-powered vehicle developed by his own space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.
Neither Blue Origin nor Virgin Galactic have announced final pricing for their suborbital flights, but tickets are expected to cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And in addition to trips to the edge of space, people with deep pockets may soon be able to pay for orbital experiences and more prolonged stays in microgravity.
Last month, SpaceX, the spaceflight company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, launched four private passengers into orbit around Earth on a three-day expedition. That flight made history as the first orbital launch with an all-civilian crew.
SpaceX is also preparing to launch three private passengers who each paid $55 million to the International Space Station in early 2022.
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