William Shatner goes to space on Blue Origin mission

By Jackie Wattles, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT) October 13, 2021
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4:11 p.m. ET, October 13, 2021

Shatner's spaceflight is a "testament to the human imagination," astrophysicist says

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

William Shatner's journey into space this morning is much bigger than tourism for the ultra-wealthy but a symbol of the power of the human imagination, Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, said today.

"It's really a testimony to the human imagination ... the power of science fiction and the stories it tells us about a hopeful human future," Frank told CNN.

Frank went on to suggest that Shatner, an actor best known for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on "Star Trek," served today as symbol for humanity's extraterrestrial hopes and dreams.

"Who is William Shatner?" Frank asked. "He's just an actor, but James T. Kirk, he is...a part of our imagination about a vibrant human future that includes space, so I think that's really the importance of James Kirk being in space today." 

Frank went on to say he hoped that as mankind continues to fix its gaze again on the heavens, it might become easier to come together to solve problems on Earth.

"You'll have enough of humanity recognizing that the Earth is the only home," he said. "You cannot mess with the planet." 

"We have so much science... and climate denial that the more people can understand that there is this thin, thin veil that separates us from the cold death vacuum of space...Kirk is right...the faster we're going to be able to take care of the problems we have on Earth," he said.

1:03 p.m. ET, October 13, 2021

Blue Origin capsule flew to nearly 350,000 feet above ground level

From CNN’s Devon Sayers and Gregory Lemos

People watch as Blue Origin’s New Shepard flies toward space carrying 90-year-old Star Trek actor William Shatner and three other civilians on October 13, 2021 near Van Horn, Texas. 
People watch as Blue Origin’s New Shepard flies toward space carrying 90-year-old Star Trek actor William Shatner and three other civilians on October 13, 2021 near Van Horn, Texas.  (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Blue Origin flight sent the capsule soaring to 347,539 feet above ground level at its highest point, or apogee, according to a tweet from Blue Origin’s official Twitter account.

“The booster reached an apogee of 347,160 ft [above ground level],” the company added.

The official launch time was 10:49 a.m. ET and that the capsule landed at 10:59 a.m. ET, Blue Origin said. The mission was 10 minutes and 17 seconds with a max velocity of 2,235 mph.

Today's flight was the “19th consecutive successful crew capsule landing (every flight in the program, including a pad escape test in 2012,)” the company said.

11:32 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

Shatner says every hold before the spaceflight made him more nervous

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

There were multiple holds before liftoff and each hold made William Shatner more nervous, he told Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos on the company's livestream of the spaceflight.

"I'm thinking I'm a little nervous here. Another delay? I'm a little more nervous," he said.

The simulation experiences to prepare the crew before their spaceflight "doesn't capture" the real experience. Shatner said the force he felt during his actual flight was still unexpected.

"Am I going to be able to survive the G forces? Am I going to survive it? Then I think, 'good lord, just getting up the bloody gantry.' Oh my God, what an experience," he said.

11:38 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

"Everybody in the world needs to do this," Shatner says after spaceflight

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Actor William Shatner, who became the oldest person to travel to space at age 90, told Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos that his spaceflight was "unbelievable."

"Everybody in this world needs to do this," Shatner said after landing back on Earth and exiting the capsule.

"To see the blue color whip by you, and now you're staring into blackness, that's the thing," he said.

He called the sky a "comforter of blue that we have around us."

"You look down, there's the blue down there and the black up there ... there is Mother Earth and comfort, and there is, is there death? I don't know, but is that death? Is that the way death is? ... It was so moving; this experience, it was something unbelievable," he said while the crew celebrated behind him.

11:38 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

"I’m overwhelmed," Shatner says after 11-minute trip into space 

Actor William Shatner, best known for playing Captain Kirk on "Star Trek," described his journey into space as overwhelming and something everybody should experience.

“I’m overwhelmed. I had no idea. We were talking earlier, yeah, it’s going to be different – whatever that phrase is that you have a different view of things, it doesn’t begin to explain, to describe what, for me," he said upon exiting his Blue Origin flight.

Shatner made history today, becoming the oldest person to travel to space at age 90.

"It would be so important for everybody to have that experience through one means or another," he continued.

"Maybe you could put it on 3D and wear the goggles to have that experience,” Shatner suggested to Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.

11:36 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

Blue Origin passengers given flight wings from Jeff Bezos

William Shatner, who at 90 years old just became the oldest person to travel to space, received flight wings from Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos alongside the three other passengers.

The wings are from Blue Origin and are not official wings from the Federal Aviation Administration's Commercial Astronaut Wings Program.

Bezos in July went to the edge of space with the first-ever crewed mission for Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital space tourism rocket.

12:00 p.m. ET, October 13, 2021

An emotional William Shatner says "I hope I can maintain what I feel now. I don't want to lose it."

Back on Earth, William Shatner grew emotional describing his experience launching into space

"I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened. It's extraordinary, extraordinary. I hope I can maintain what I feel now. I don't want to lose it. It's so much larger than me and life."

Speaking to Jeff Bezos after the Blue Origin flight, the 90-year-old actor told him: "What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine." 

He continued: "It hasn't got anything to do with the little green men and the blue orb. It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death." 

11:14 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

William Shatner and crew emerge from Blue Origin capsule after space flight

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

(Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

After William Shatner and the rest of the crew landed back on Earth, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos opened the capsule hatch and said, "Hello astronauts, welcome to Earth!"

Audrey Powers was the first to emerge out of the capsule, followed by Shatner.

Bezos welcomed the crew members back in his Blue Origin space suit along with the members' families.

11:21 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

William Shatner makes history as oldest person to go to space

From CNN's Jackie Wattles

Ninety-year-old William Shatner, who gained fame portraying Captain Kirk on the original "Star Trek," just hitched a ride aboard a suborbital spacecraft that grazed the edge of outer space before parachuting to a landing, making Shatner the oldest person ever to travel to space.

Shatner took off aboard a New Shepard spacecraft — the one developed by Jeff Bezos' rocket company, Blue Origin, and the same vehicle that took Bezos himself to space this summer — just before 10:50 a.m. ET from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site.

Bezos, a lifelong "Star Trek" fan, flew Shatner as a comped guest. With him were three crewmates: Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of satellite company Planet Labs, and software executive Glen de Vries, who are both paying customers, and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin's vice president of mission and flight operations.

The trip took just 10 minutes from takeoff to landing. The crew experienced about three minutes of weightlessness at the top of their flight path before their capsule deployed parachutes to slow their descent and touched back down near their Texas launch site.

Shanter's new record as the oldest person to fly to space one-ups the record set just three months ago by 82-year-old Wally Funk, who was previously denied the opportunity to fly by NASA in the 1960s before she joined Bezos on his July flight.