William Shatner finally made it to the actual final frontier, becoming the oldest person to enter space following a successful trip on one of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin New Shepard capsules Wednesday, October 13th.
The 90-year-old actor, famous for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek TV series, was effusive about his expedition after returning to Earth. He called the flight the most “profound experience I can imagine,” and was particularly fixated on the surreal experience of flying beyond the blue sky — “This comforter of blue that we have around us” — and suddenly entering total darkness.
“It was unbelievable,” Shatner said. “You know, the little things like weightlessness, but to see the blue cover just whip by and now you’re staring into blackness — that’s the thing.”
Shatner’s historic trip drew plenty of congratulations and Star Trek references on Twitter, as well. NASA wrote, “You are, and always shall be, our friend,” alluding to the line Leonard Nimooy’s Spock tells Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
🖖 @WilliamShatner We wish you all the best on your flight to space.
— NASA (@NASA) October 13, 2021
Upon landing, Shatner tweeted… something:
I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now & then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.🚀 pic.twitter.com/ZY2Ka8ij7z
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) October 13, 2021
All that said — and acknowledging it’s no fun raining on the parade of a cultural treasure like Shatner — it’s nevertheless important to note that today’s Blue Origin launched took place against a tumultuous backdrop. On top of the already questionable nature of billionaires like Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson using their extreme wealth to shoot themselves and select others into space while the world literally burns and people go broke visiting the doctor, Blue Origin itself was recently accused of fostering a toxic work culture. Last September, the company’s former head of employee communications, Alexandra Abrams, published an essay with 20 unnamed current and former employees who said sexism was rampant at Blue Origin and that helping Bezos excel in the billionaire space race was often prioritized over safety.
The letter read in part: “In the opinion of an engineer who has signed on to this essay, “Blue Origin has been lucky that nothing has happened so far.” Many of this essay’s authors say they would not fly on a Blue Origin vehicle. And no wonder—we have all seen how often teams are stretched beyond reasonable limits.”
Blue Origin denied all the allegations in Abrams’ letter, saying it had an internal hotline for sexual harassment complaints and calling the New Shepard the “safest space vehicle ever designed or built.”