Having made a career out of playing an explorer of the cosmos, William Shatner, Captain James Kirk of Star Trek fame, did it for real on Wednesday, becoming at age 90 the oldest person in space aboard a rocketship flown by billionaire Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin, an experience the actor called profound.
Shatner was one of four passengers to journey for 10 minutes and 17 seconds to the edge of space aboard the white fully autonomous 60-foot-tall New Shepard spacecraft, which took off from Blue Origin’s launch site about 20 miles (32 km) outside the rural west Texas town of Van Horn.
The crew capsule returned to the Texas desert from the suborbital flight under parachutes, raising a cloud of dust. Shatner emerged gingerly from the capsule in the desert silence, appearing reflective as the others celebrated by cheering and popping champagne bottles.
Bezos was on hand and embraced Shatner who was wearing a cap and a blue flight suit with the company’s name in white letters on one sleeve.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” Shatner told Bezos as the two chatted for several minutes. “I am so filled with emotion about what just happened.” The all-civilian crew experienced a few minutes of weightlessness, having travelled about 65.8 miles (106 km) above the Earth’s surface – higher than the internationally recognised boundary of space known as the Karman Line, about 62 miles (100 km) above Earth.
It marked the second space tourism flight for Blue Origin, the company Bezos, the Amazon.com Inc founder and current executive chairman, founded two decades ago. Bezos flew aboard the first one in July.