William Shatner, the actor who portrayed Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek franchise, took method acting to another level by becoming the latest celebrity to reach space – albeit just for around 10-15 minutes.
The Enterprise commander caught a ride on a Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, which launched Wednesday morning at 10 a.m ET. Shatner was joined by former NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen, Dassault Systemes executive Glen de Vries, and Blue Origin vice president Audrey Powers.
According to Yahoo! News, Boshuizen and de Vries reportedly spent more than $250,000 on tickets, while Shatner was invited to join the flight by Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The flight, named NS-18, was originally intended to launch on Tuesday morning, but was postponed due to forecasted winds as Blue Origin explained in a press release. Cnet gave a brief overview of how a flight like this operates after launch.
“A few minutes into the flight, the capsule will separate from the booster and continue on to suborbital space, where the crew will get to experience weightlessness and an epic view of Earth before reentering the atmosphere for a parachute-assisted soft landing in the desert.”
The flight took the crew about 62 miles above Earth. At 90 years old, Shatner now becomes the oldest person to reach space. In a statement, Shatner explained that he’s “heard about space for a long time now” while calling his opportunity a miracle.
This is the second Blue Origin launching, with the first occurring back on July 20. That trip included Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, progressive aviator Wally Funk (who briefly held the title of the oldest person to reach space), and 18-year-old Oliver Daemon, Blue Origin’s first paying customer.
Shatner’s trip is just the latest in what has essentially become the one percent’s space race. Prior to Bezos’ flight, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, along with five other passengers, launched in SpaceShipTwo — a winged plane instead of a rocket — on July 12.
Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX is making progress, and Musk has already voiced his desire to colonize Mars.
This kind of space exploration has become a heavily debated topic. Many would argue that prioritizing space and science helps to spark a new generation’s interest, answer questions, provide us with new and greater resources, and possibly lead us to untouched horizons.
However, critics have scolded Bezos and Branson for their tone-deafness — Bezos bizarrely thanked Amazon workers for making him enough money to fly to space after his launch — and their spending of over $200 billion that could be better used by helping those going through unprecedented crises on Earth.
Speaking to Salon, University of California-Berkeley professor of psychology Dacher Keltner explained that the reason millionaires and billionaires have become so absorbed with space is due to them trying to reach a “mystical” status.
Keltner also states that throughout history, there have been similar trends such as this (although certainly not comparable to the magnitude of money or technology happening here).
“They love to gravitate to things that give them this singular status in the world, and I think that’s one of the massive problems of privilege.”
Additionally, University of North Carolina associate professor Joseph Czabovsky told NPR that this kind of zealous marketing attempt, while successful, runs the risk of alienating the public’s view into thinking that space is only for the privileged and wealthy.
While space tourism has been hotly pursued by Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and other companies, the average person might have to wait longer before they can hope on a rocket and see the boundless space and stars for themselves.
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at email@example.com.