VAN HORN, Texas (AP) — Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, climbed aboard a rocket ship along with three fellow passengers for a real-life ride into space Wednesday, courtesy of “Star Trek” fan Jeff Bezos.
The four began strapping in for a morning launch from remote West Texas on a trip expected to last just 10 minutes, with the fully automated capsule set to reach an altitude of about 66 miles before parachuting back to the desert floor.
Bezos’ space travel company, Blue Origin, invited Shatner on the jaunt to the final frontier, a mission that would make him the oldest person in space.
Bezos himself drove the four to the pad and was with them on the platform high above the ground as they climbed aboard the 60-foot rocket. The capsule, New Shepard, was named for first American in space, Alan Shepard.
“This is a pinch-me moment for all of us to see Capt. James Tiberius Kirk go to space,” Blue Origin launch commentator Jacki Cortese said before liftoff. She said she, like so many others, was drawn to the space business by shows like “Star Trek.”
When are astronauts not astronauts? When they pay their own way into space, says NASA. But the growing overlap between exploration and adventure travel is redefining both categories.
It was Blue Origin’s second scheduled passenger flight, using the same capsule and rocket that Bezos used for his own launch three months ago.
Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson kicked off the U.S.-based space tourism boom in July, riding his own rocket ship to space. Bezos followed nine days later aboard his own capsule. Elon Musk stayed behind as his SpaceX company launched its first tourist flight last month.
And last week, the Russians sent an actor and film director to the International Space Station for movie-making.
“We’re just at the beginning, but how miraculous that beginning is. How extraordinary it is to be part of that beginning,” Shatner said in a Blue Origin video posted on the eve of his flight.
Rounding out the crew: a Blue Origin vice president and two entrepreneurs. Blue Origin did not divulge their ticket prices. Shatner was invited to ride for free.
Dunn reported from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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