Blue Origin launches William Shatner into space

(Reuters)

Blue Origin has launched William Shatner into space aboard its New Shepard NS-18 rocket.

The 90-year-old Star Trek actor became the oldest person ever to travel to space, taking the record from 82-year-old Wally Funk who took part in Blue Origin’s first crewed flight in July.

“Everyone on Earth needs to see this,” he told Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos after returning to Earth. “What you have given me is the most profound experience… It’s unbelievable.”

The visibly emotional nonagenarian added: “I hope I maintain what I feel now. It’s so much larger than me and life… I don’t want to lose it.”

The launch was delayed several times due to windy weather at Blue Origin’s facility in West Texas but finally lifted off at around 9.50am local time.

Flying alongside Shatner were Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice-president of mission and flight operations, Chris Boshuizen, a former Nasa engineer, and Glen de Vries, the co-founder of software firm Medidata.

The rocket booster and capsule reached an altitude of around 106km, before separating and returning to Earth. From this altitude the passengers were able to see the curvature of the Earth and experience micro gravity. The total flight time took just over 10 minutes.

The Blue Origin flight came just days after former employees accused the private space firm of neglecting safety protocols and harbouring a “toxic” work culture.

Crew member and Blue Origin executive denied these claims, saying, “That just hasn’t been my experience at Blue.

“We’re exceedingly thorough, from the earliest days up through now as we’ve started our human flights. Safety has always been our op priority.”

Blue Origin is one of three companies pioneering a new era of space tourism, with SpaceX and Virgin Galactic also sending civilians to space in recent months.

Seats on Virgin Galactic’s craft cost around £350,000, though Blue Origin is yet to publicly disclose the price passengers pay for tickets.

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