Van Horn, Texas:
Actor William Shatner embarked on a suborbital trip aboard a Blue Origin rocket and landed in the Texas desert on Wednesday, becoming the oldest man in space at the age of 90 after flying the second tourist flight of US billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos.
Shutter was one of four passengers who boarded the fully autonomous 60-foot-long (18.3-meter-long) New Shepard spacecraft at the edge of space, 20 miles (32 km) outside the Blue Origin launch site in the rural West Texas town of Van Horn.
The four astronauts experienced a weightlessness of about three to four minutes and traveled 62 miles (100 km) above the Earth over the internationally recognized boundary of space known as the Karman Line. The crew returns to the Texas desert under the capsule parachute, lifting clouds of dust.
Four astronauts, all wearing blue flight suits with the company name in white letters on one arm, climbed into the crew capsule above the spacecraft before launch and got stuck after climbing the stairs with Bezos. Everyone rang an bell before entering the capsule, Bezos then closed the hatch. Earlier, they rode in a car with the Bezos to the launch pad.
The wind was light and the sky was clear for the launch, which was conducted after two delays of roughly 5 minutes.
Joining Shutner – who promised space travel in the 1960s classic TV series “Star Trek” and the next seven films – all civilian crew were former NASA engineer Chris Basuizen, clinical research entrepreneur Glenn de Vries and Vice President of Blue Origins
It marks the second space tourism flight of Blue Origin, the company of billionaire U.S. businessman Jeff Bezos, founded two decades ago.
The flight represents another important day for the new space tourism industry, which, according to UBS, could reach 3 billion annually in a decade. The flight, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was delayed by one day due to wind.
On July 20, Blue Origin had a successful debut space travel flight, which included Bezos and three others, who flew to the edge of space and returned in a journey of 10 minutes and 10 seconds. On that flight, at the age of 2, the leading female pilot, Wali Funk, became the oldest person to reach space. The previous record was set in 1998 when pioneer astronaut John Glenn returned to space as a 77-year-old U.S. senator.
Bezos, founder and current executive chairman of Amazon.com Inc., formed Blue Origin two decades ago.
Shutter, who turned0 in March, has been performing since the 1950s and has been involved in entertainment projects and fan conferences. He starred as Captain James T. of Starship Enterprise in the 1960s classic TV series “Star Trek.”
As an actor, Shatner was synonymous with space travel. During the opening credits of each episode of the series, he called the place “the ultimate frontier” and promised to “explore strange new worlds, find new life and new civilizations, where no one has gone before with the courage to go.”
“Beat Me Up,” Shutter’s character will tell Scott, the enterprise’s chief engineer, played by James Dohan, when he needed to be taken to the starship in a memorable catchphrase.
Shutter said there is both embarrassment and symmetry for his space travel, played by an astronaut for decades and now it is becoming one.
In the Blue Origin video, Shatner said, “After playing the role of Captain Kirk … I handed over my knowledge to a future astronaut, but I’m always curious.”
Shutter’s participation in the flight helped promote Blue Origin as it competed against two billionaire-backed rivals – Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc.
Branson inaugurated his space travel service on July 11, boarding a suburban flight with six others on his company’s VSS Unity rocket aircraft. SpaceX, which has launched numerous astronauts and cargo payloads for NASA on the International Space Station, began its space tourism business by flying all the first civilian crew to reach Earth orbit on a three-day mission ending September 18.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said two weeks ago that it would review safety concerns raised by former and current Blue Origin employees who have complained against the company for prioritizing quality control and speed and cost savings over adequate workforce.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)