William Shatner, Star Trek’s Captain James Kirk himself, returned from space about two hours ago. He flew suborbital on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket to 350,000-plus feet above Earth, was weightless for a few minutes and had an otherworldly view. None other than Jeff Bezos, whose company had just taken him up, was waiting in the west Texas desert to greet Shatner and his crew after they touched down and emerged from their capsule.
Shatner, 90, is the oldest person now to have gone into space. His words just after the flight were passionate, and quite enlightening. Below are edited excerpts from his animated conversation with Bezos:
William Shatner: “Oh my God. it’s indescribable. To see the blue color [of the atmosphere] shoot by like that. Down there is mother, and up there is death. Is that what death is? It is so moving. I never expected it.
“There’s beauty and comfort of the blue. It’s so thin. You’re going close to 2,000 mph, and through like 50 miles of it in an instant. And then you’re into black. It’s mysterious, and you know there are galaxies and such up there, but all you see is that black. And down below is light.
“[Jeff], what you’ve given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I’m so filled with emotion. It’s extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this, maintain what I feel now. It’s so much larger than me. It has to do with enormity, the quickness of life and death. Oh my God! It’s beautiful in its own way.
“What I would love to do is communicate this as much as possible. The jeopardy, the moment you feel that vulnerability. This air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It’s a sliver, immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe. Mars doesn’t really have it. There is life, and then there’s death.
“We were talking earlier before I went up, whatever that phrase is where you’ll have a different view of things. Now here’s the commercial: It’s important for everybody to have this experience, through one means or another. Maybe you could put it on 3D. I guess that’s a technical possibility.
“Then, before launch, one delay after another, and we’re just lying there. How do I feel? A little jittery. ‘There’s something in the engine [laughs], we’re going to hold a little longer.’ I feel the stomach, the bile inside. I’m a little nervous here. Then another delay. I’m a little more nervous.
“The simulation [we did beforehand] is only a simulation. It doesn’t capture the jeopardy. Am I going to be able to survive the G-forces – just getting up there, then the reentry [laughs]? Oh my God, what an experience. Oooofff. You share it with your comrades [in the capsule], of course, like the bonding of being in battle. But you’re also embattled inside of yourself.”