Blue Origin confirms it’ll give Star Trek captain William Shatner a suborbital space ride

William Shatner and Sarah Knights
Blue Origin’s Sarah Knights gives William Shatner a tour of the West Texas launch tower. (Blue Origin Photo)

It’s official: Star Trek actor William Shatner is due to fly on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship next week, becoming the oldest person to go into space at the age of 90.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space venture made the announcement this morning, confirming a report published by the TMZ celebrity news site 10 days earlier.

“I’ve heard about space for a long time now. I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle,” Shatner said in the news release.

On Twitter, Shatner essentially confirmed that he had to keep mum about the flight and the TMZ report until today. “So now I can say something,” he wrote. “Yes, it’s true; I’m going to be a ‘rocket man’!”

Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, Audrey Powers, will also be on board for New Shepard’s launch. That rounds out a crew of four that also includes tech entrepreneurs Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, whose names came to light last week.

Next week’s countdown and launch will be live-streamed via Blue Origin’s website, starting at the T-minus-90-minute mark. Liftoff from Launch Site One in West Texas is currently set for 8:30 a.m. CT (6:30 a.m. PT) Oct. 12.

This will be Blue Origin’s second crewed suborbital spaceflight, following up on the trip that Bezos and three other fliers took in July. That flight carried the world’s youngest and oldest spacefliers: 18-year-old Dutch student Oliver Daemen and 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk. Their status in the record books was confirmed last week by Guinness World Records — but if Shatner flies as planned, the record books would have to be rewritten again.

The next flight is expected to stick with the same flight profile: New Shepard’s hydrogen-fueled booster will send the foursome past the 100-kilometer (62-mile) mark, known as the Karman Line, which is internationally recognized as a space boundary. After the crew capsule separates from the booster, Shatner and his crewmates will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and get a view of the curving Earth beneath the black sky of space. Then the booster will land itself, and the capsule will make a parachute-aided touchdown.

Unlike the Starship Enterprise, the New Shepard rocket ship is designed to fly autonomously, with no controls built into the cabin. The whole trip should take about 10 minutes. That’s significantly shorter than the three-day orbital trip that four amateur spacefliers took aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule during last month’s philanthropic Inspiration4 mission.

Thousands of postcards will be packed aboard the capsule for an outreach program created by the Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s educational nonprofit organization.

Going to space should resonate for Shatner, who portrayed Captain James T. Kirk on the original “Star Trek” TV series in the 1960s and in a string of movies starting in 1979. Although Kirk is Shatner’s best-known role, he’s continued to star in TV shows and movies ranging from “T.J. Hooker” and “Boston Legal” to the 2021 film “Senior Moment.” He’s currently the host and executive producer of “The UneXplained” on the History Channel.

Blue Origin said Shatner and Powers will fly as “honored guests,” without paying a fare. (In contrast, Boshuizen and Glen de Vries are paying an undisclosed amount.)

“We expect to continue to have special guests from time to time, and some of them may be employees we want to thank for all of their work on the New Shepard program,” company spokesperson Sara Blask told GeekWire in an email.

TMZ reported that a documentary focusing on Shatner’s space trip was in the works, but there was no immediate word on the status of such a project.

Audrey Powers has been at Blue Origin since 2013 and no one is more familiar with the #NewShepard vehicle and its operations. Audrey had 2000 hours on console for the ISS, is a pilot, engineer, sponsor of the New Mercury resource group at Blue, and Chair of @csf_spaceflight. pic.twitter.com/f3J9fBHCI5

— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) October 4, 2021

Concerns about New Shepard’s flight safety were raised last week in an essay written by current and former Blue Origin employees, but Powers voiced no qualms in today’s announcement.

In her role as vice president, Powers oversees New Shepard’s flight operations, vehicle maintenance and the infrastructure for launch, landing and ground support. She played a lead role in process that led the Federal Aviation Administration to certify New Shepard for human spaceflight — and was one of the participants in a launch rehearsal that preceded July’s flight.

“I’m so proud and humbled to fly on behalf of Team Blue, and I’m excited to continue writing Blue’s human spaceflight history,” Powers said. “I was part of the amazing effort we assembled for New Shepard’s Human Flight Certification Review, a years-long initiative completed in July 2021. As an engineer and lawyer with more than two decades of experience in the aerospace industry, I have great confidence in our New Shepard team and the vehicle we’ve developed.”

Last week, the FAA said it would investigate the allegations made in the essay and on “CBS Mornings.” The FAA is responsible for clearing next week’s flight, as is typically the case for commercial spaceflights.

Previously: SNL’s Star Trek parody pokes fun at Jeff Bezos

Tags
Space Blue origin New shepard Space tourism Star trek Suborbital spaceflight William shatner