Blue Origin continues to batter down the hatches as the company continues to solidify its place as an industry leader. Even though the firm now appears to still be catching up to SpaceX, Blue Origin is making some impressive moves of its own.
Recently, the company snagged another celebrity move as it successfully carried Star Trek actor William Shatner to space.
Ready for Captain Kirk
Blue Origin first announced that it would fly Shatner to space in early October. A press release from the company confirmed that the 90-year-old actor would join its New Shepard crew for a crewed flight beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The flight marked the second high-profile flight from Blue Origin, with company founder Jeff Bezos going to space back in July along with several other guests - including Bezos’ brother, Mark.
The flight would make Shatner the oldest person to ever go into space. He broke the record previously set just three months ago by Wally Funk - an 82-year-old former NASA engineer who got her wish to travel beyond the Earth’s atmosphere thanks to Blue Origin itself. Funk had been a part of the crew to accompany Bezos on his flight, with Blue Origin selecting her due to her impressive work with NASA in her day.
Shatner made his trip along with several other passengers, including Chris Boshuizen, the co-founder of satellite company Planet Labs and a former NASA specialist; Glen de Vries, the co-founder of software firm Medidata, and Audrey Powers - Blue Origin's vice president of flights and missions.
While the flight was a momentous one, it didn’t quite get the type of buzz that several other endeavors had gotten. Crewed flights are no longer news, with all three major private aerospace companies already delivering on similar experiences. Bezos and his crew took off to space in July, just a week after Virgin Galactic’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, took his own crew to space.
SpaceX has also run something similar - the Inspiration4 mission, which took off a little over a month ago. So, it’s understandable that the Shatner mission came and went as it did.
The suborbital flight eventually came on October 13, a day after Blue Origin postponed the initial flight due to weather challenges. Shatner and his crew took off from the company’s launch site in West Texas, coming back just ten minutes after takeoff. But, the crew managed to enjoy three minutes of weightlessness while on the flight.
Describing the experience, Shatner said in a tweet when he got back to Earth:
Surprising Beef With Another Actor
Interestingly, while Shatner’s flight appears to have gone off without a hitch, it hasn’t been without its fair share of controversy. Following the flight, George Takei - a Star Trek co-star - criticized Shatner and his crew for the flight.
Speaking with PageSix, Takei hammered Shatner about his age and weight. The 84-year-old Takei called Shatner a “guinea pig,” adding that he simply wanted to see what the experience was like.
“So 90 years old is going to show a great deal more on the wear and tear on the human body, so he’ll be a good specimen to study. Although he’s not the fittest specimen of 90 years old, so he’ll be a specimen that’s unfit!” Takei added.
Both actors have had a famously choppy history, with Takei accusing Shatner decades ago of ignoring him on the Star Trek set and even changing the script of “Star Trek V” to prevent his character - named Hikaru Sulu - from getting additional screen time.
Not one to take things lying down, Shatner has since shot back at Takei, branding him a “hater.” The two actors continue to be locked in their feud, although Blue Origin could also take some quick publicity from the fallout for now.
It is yet to be seen if Blue Origin has any plans to conduct more flights in the future. The company does seem to have the capital, especially now that it has now appeared to master crewed flights.