Given Kirk’s image as a lothario, it’s fitting that the actor who made him immortal would fly to space in a phallus.
Most 90-year-olds are sitting around the retirement home, waiting for Bingo to start. William Shatner started his day firing off quotes from Isaac Newton before climbing into the cockpit (ahem) of a spaceship:
I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now & then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.? pic.twitter.com/ZY2Ka8ij7z
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) October 13, 2021
Gotta be a top 10 all-time PR stunt by Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin to convince the most famous actor in American sci fi to take a ride for them — and they needed some good PR after the last few weeks they’ve had, frankly.
I assume Elon Musk is on the phone with Mark Hamill or Patrick Stewart as I write this. The billionaire space race is no longer purely a matter of who can build the biggest and fastest space wiener or who can stay in orbit the longest. Now it’s a sci-fi celebrity arms race too.
Here’s the liftoff…
Blue Origin New Shepard Launch with William Shatner aboard.
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 13, 2021
…and here’s Shatner after his brief trip waxing lyrical, overcome by the wonder he felt at having finally experienced space for real:
BREAKING: @WilliamShatner lands back on Earth as the oldest person to ever go to space.
Here’s his astonished and emotional reaction.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 13, 2021
He’s the oldest person ever to make the journey by far, which is another PR coup for Bezos. Someday, probably sooner than we think, these trips will be commercially available. Having a man who’s 90 survive it without a hair out of place will help convince the risk-averse segment of the consumer base that it’s safe.
And of course, the spectacle will make Shatner more of an icon than he already is:
And now, at last, William Shatner truly is the goddamn Rocket Man. pic.twitter.com/QTWCqsFadO
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) October 13, 2021
The element of private space travel that I’ll never get over is that they’ve worked out how to bring back the entire ship safely, not just the payload. If you were raised in the age of the Apollo program or the Space Shuttle, you’re used to the idea of the fuel-carrying parts of the craft being jettisoned and tumbling back to Earth once they’ve served their purpose. Blue Origin’s ship also splits apart but I’m not sure why. As you’ll see in the clip of today’s launch below, they’re now able to guide the bulk of the craft back to the ground and lay it softly onto a landing pad — not unlike firing an arrow into the air, having it break mid-flight, then having the tail land on its end, straight up. It seems physically impossible but there it is. And of course, it’s key to why trips to space might eventually be affordable. The company’s not sacrificing hardware every time it launches.
I’m too lazy to google so I’ll invite space nerds to answer instead: If they can land the propulsive part of the ship safely, why do they split off the cockpit at all? Why not fire the ship straight up and then bring the whole thing back down intact onto the launch pad? Does it have to do with the G-forces involved being too rough on the human body? Or are they still unsure that they have all the bugs worked out on landing the propulsive part and don’t want to risk something going wrong with the crew still attached to it?