In October 2021, actor William Shatner became the oldest astronaut to go to space. In a new book, the "Star Trek" celebrity shares what he really thought about his time in space.
What Happened: Shatner became the oldest astronaut at the age of 90, flying aboard a Blue Origin spacecraft to go to space.
Blue Origin, founded by Amazon.com Inc AMZN co-founder Jeff Bezos, is one of several companies that has taken celebrities and others to space.
Shatner said his trip to space filled him with “overwhelming sadness," a memory he shared in a new book.
One memory Shatner shared was asking about a thick cement room with oxygen tanks that he and his co-passengers passed by on their way to the rocket.
“Oh, you guys will rush in here if the rocket explodes,” a Blue Origin person reportedly told Shatner.
Before the space flight, Shatner said he recalled thinking about the Hindenburg airship disaster.
“Not enough to cancel, of course – I hold myself to be a professional, and I was booked. The show had to go on,” Shatner said.
After strapping into the flight, Shatner said there was a delay due to an “anomaly in the engine.”
“An anomaly of the engine? That sounds kinda serious, doesn’t it? An anomaly is something that does not belong,” Shatner recalled thinking.
Ultimately, the flight took off and saw Shatner break the record as the oldest astronaut to go to space.
“At three g’s, I felt my face being pushed down into my seat. I don’t know how much more of this I can take, I thought. Will I pass out? Will my face melt into a pile of mush? How many g’s can my ninety-year-old body handle?”
When the flight reached weightlessness, Shatner said the others onboard were doing somersaults, something he wanted no part of.
“I wanted, needed, to get to the window as quickly as possible to see what was out there.”
Shatner recalled looking down on Earth and staring into space.
“When I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold, all I saw was death.”
Shatner recalled what he saw as a “cold, dark, black emptiness” unlike any blackness you can see on Earth.
“I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.”
Shatner called the trip and views of space “the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered.”
“My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.”
Shatner said his feelings are called the “Overview Effect,” something common among astronauts.
Why It’s Important: Shatner is one of several celebrities to go to space.
Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic Holdings SPCE have plans to take hundreds of people to space for large sums of money over the next couple of years.
The encounter revealed in Shatner’s book might not be the sparkling vote of confidence in the trip being worth it or a one-of-a-kind experience.
Tesla Inc TSLA and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has booked a ticket with Virgin Galactic. He recently said in an interview that he would consider going to Mars in the future if he’s older due to a “non-trivial chance of dying.”
“Rather than right now, where little X is only two-and-a-half. I think he’d miss me,” Musk said.
Musk has not commented on whether he would take the shorter trip to space with Virgin Galactic still.
Actor Ashton Kutcher sold his ticket to space with Virgin Galactic after his wife Mila Kunis convinced him it wasn’t a smart decision, given the potential risks.
Given the high costs of booking a trip to space, celebrities were one of the target demographics for Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. With celebrities speaking out against the experience or choosing to stay on Earth with their families, space travel companies could have tougher time booking tickets.
Shatner's book “Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder,” co-authored by Josh Brandon, was released on Oct. 4 and is published by Atria Books, a unit of Simon and Schuster, which is owned by Paramount Global PARAPARAA.
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