Bezos presented Shatner and the three other passengers on New Shepard Rocket NS-18 launch with their Blue Origin astronaut wings shortly after they existed the capsule in the West Texas desert.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket and capsule carrying “Star Trek” actor William Shatner, Blue Origin’s Audrey Powers and paying passengers Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of the Earth-observation company Planet, and Glen de Vries, vice chair for life sciences and healthcare at the French software company Dassault Systèmes.
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While Boshuizen and de Vries paid for their seats on New Shepard Rocket, Blue Origin did not say how much they paid — Powers joined the mission as part of her professional role at Blue Origin. Before taking on her current position at the company, Powers served as an engineer and a space lawyer, and she was previously a flight controller for NASA’s International Space Station program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The 90-year-old actor launched Wednesday aboard a rocket and capsule developed by Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The historic joyride made Shatner the oldest person to reach space.
Shatner is now the oldest person to have ever flown to space, beating the record set by the 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, who flew on Blue Origin’s first crewed flight with the company’s founder Jeff Bezos on July 20.
Wednesday’s flight launched from a site in west Texas, southeast of El Paso. After liftoff, the rocket accelerated toward space at three times the speed of sound. At an altitude of approximately 250,000 feet, the New Shepard Rocket capsule separated, taking Shatner and his crew members to the edge of space.
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The mission was delayed by nearly an hour as crews at the launch pad worked to ensure that the rocket was ready for flight. Previously, high winds at the Texas launch site also forced Blue Origin to push the expedition from its originally scheduled time earlier in the week.
Shatner recalled feeling jittery before liftoff, and spoke about what it was like to accelerate to the edge of space. He also described seeing the planet’s thin atmosphere and gazing back at the curvature of Earth.
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.
The BE-3 engine on Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket booster has shut down as planned and the booster has separated from the crew capsule.
The New Shepard Rocket rocket, which separated from the capsule after lofting the crew to space, also successfully executed an upright landing about seven minutes after liftoff, touching down just 2 miles (3 kilometers) north of the launchpad. The capsule reached a max altitude of nearly 66 miles (106 km), 4 miles higher than the widely recognized boundary of space.
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After reaching a peak altitude of 351,000 feet, the craft then descended under parachutes and landed again in the Texas desert. The capsule continued to space, crossing the Karman line 62 miles (100 km) up. The crew will have 4 minutes of weightlessness and will be floating about the cabin. During their flight, the crew traveled just above the Kármán line, an internationally recognized boundary of space, which is about 62 miles (100 km) above sea level.
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.
Bezos then drove the crew to Launch Site One in an electric Rivian truck, with Shatner in the center seat like he would take on the bridge of the USS Enterprise on “Star Trek.” Bezos accompanied the crew up to their capsule, where they rang a ship’s bell as they crossed the gantry to New Shepard Rocket. After the flight, Bezos presented each of the four crewmembers with Blue Origin astronaut wings just after they exited their capsule at their West Texas desert landing site.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience I could ever imagine,” Shatner told Bezos after launch.
Bezos welcomed the crew members back in his Blue Origin space suit along with the members’ families.Bezos escorted the four passengers to the launch pad and greeted them after their spacecraft touched down again. After Shatner climbed out of the capsule, he hugged Bezos and shared how moved he was by the brief trip.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” he told Bezos through tears. “I am overwhelmed. I had no idea.” Shatner said.
The company auctioned off a seat on its inaugural flight with Bezos in July, and that seat sold for $28 million. Blue Origin did not disclose how much the paying customers of New Shepard Rocket NS-18 spent on their tickets. Blue Origin’s competitor Virgin Galactic is currently selling suborbital flights on its space plane for $450,000 per seat.
Wednesday’s launch came amid a somewhat turbulent time for Blue Origin, which is engaged in a public lawsuit with NASA over the agency’s selection of rival SpaceX for astronaut moon landers.
The New Shepard Rocket and capsule are designed for suborbital jaunts, which don’t actually enter into orbit around Earth but rather fly to the edge of space, at an altitude of more than 65 miles, where passengers can experience around four minutes of weightlessness.
Bezos said he would devote more time to his space exploration company when he retired as CEO. He launched Blue Origin in 2000 and has said the company is his most important work, more so than Amazon. The goal, according to Bezos, is to democratize space travel and make it more accessible through reusable launch systems.
Neither Blue Origin have announced final pricing for their suborbital flights, but tickets are expected to cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Last month, SpaceX, the spaceflight company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, launched four private passengers into orbit around Earth on a three-day expedition. That flight made history as the first orbital launch with an all-civilian crew.