William Shatner: Star Trek actor’s real life spaceflight delayed

When William Shatner blasts into space on one of Jeff Bezos’ rockets on Wednesday, the Star Trek star will be fulfilling a lifelong dream of reaching the final frontier.

By his own admission, the 90-year-old actor is "terrified" at the prospect, but for many would-be civilian astronauts, the foray signals a new era of possibility for space travel.

If all goes to plan, Mr Shatner will become the oldest person to go to space when he blasts off from west Texas with Mr Bezos’ space travel company Blue Origin.

The flight, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been delayed by a day due to "high winds", adding to the sense of fear and trepidation ahead of the pensioner’s launch.

"Due to forecasted winds on Tuesday, October 12, Blue Origin’s mission operations team has made the decision to delay the launch of NS-18 and is now targeting Wednesday, October 13," the company said in a statement.

He will be joined by Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president, a Nasa engineer and two paying space tourists for the fully-automated flight and travel more than 66 miles above earth.

Shatner and his fellow passengers – Nasa engineer Chris Boshuizen, healthcare entrepreneur Glen de Vries and Blue Origin vice president of mission and flight operations Audrey Powers

Credit: MEGA/IBLIM

The flight is just the latest venture by Mr Bezos’ Blue Origin and his fellow billionaire businessmen Richard Branson and Elon Musk.

But industry experts say it is Wednesday’s flight with the 90-year-old actor best known for playing Captain James T Kirk that will signify most with space travel enthusiasts.

"The space crowd are going to go nuts for this," said Dr Timiebi Aganaba, a professor of Space and Society at Arizona State University.

"The fact that you’re having 80 or 90-year-olds helps show that you don’t have to be superhuman astronauts," she said.
Blue Origin’s space capsule is fully automated, meaning passengers can avoid the rigorous training undertaken by astronauts and must simply comply with the company’s "functional requirements".

As part of the process, passengers must pass medical screenings and be able to quickly climb several flights of steps at the launch tower to get to the capsule or out of it in an emergency.

Dr Aganaba said Mr Shatner’s training and preparations were likely to have been limited to safety training on the space capsule’s features.

"That’s probably where we’re going to get to [with space tourism]," she said. “The risk is not zero, but we’ve come so far that we can let anyone on these flights.”

Wednesday’s expedition will be Blue Origin’s second launch of a crew.

Mr Bezos was on Blue Origin’s first launch of a crew on July 20, just days after Mr Branson travelled to the edge of space with his company Virgin Galactic.

Mr Musk’s SpaceX launched its first private crew into orbit last month.

William Shatner speaks at the William Shatner Spotlight panel at an event in New York

Credit: Bennett Raglin
/Getty Images North America

"I’ve heard about space for a long time now," Mr Shatner said of his upcoming trip. "I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle."

But the Canadian actor admitted he felt some nerves about the process, jocularly describing the assurances given to him by Blue Origin staff as not entirely reassuring.

"The phrase that they use a lot was, ‘it’s our best guess that…’ Your best guess?" he joked at an event in New York last week.
He later added: "I’m thinking, I’m going up in a rocket and our best guess is it should be fine. So there is a little niggling fire of terror. I’m terrified. I’m Captain Kirk and I’m terrified!"

The flight is expected to last just 10 minutes as the passengers travel just beyond the Karman line, 62 miles up and widely regarded as the start of space.

The capsule will parachute back to the Texas desert. Mr Shatner is a special guest of Mr Bezos, a huge Star Trek fan.
Blue Origin has not divulged the ticket price for the seats occupied by two paying customers, but a seat for the company’s first crew flight sold for $28 million at auction.

While environmentalists have bemoaned the impact of the billionaires space race on the planet, a spokeswoman for Blue Origin said the company is "committed to reusability and clean fuels".

"New Shepard’s BE-3PM reusable liquid rocket engine is designed for operational reusability and uses high-performing liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. These propellants are highly efficient and clean," she said.

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