Star Trek: The Original Series can be a polarizing thing within the original fandom. It’s like magnetic poles, where you always get one with the other. TOS is rightly the butt of many jokes. Even diehard fans can roast the heck out of it, and for good reasons. But there’s also a good reason that there are so many fans to do the roasting. It is easy to fall in love with the characters, the ship, and the entire premise of exploring deep space with your friends. That makes it exciting to relay the following news: William Shatner, our timeline’s living version of Captain Kirk, is going to get into a rocket and fly into space.
The flight is scheduled to depart on the morning of Tuesday, October 12. Shatner will be part of a four-person crew, lifting off in Blue Origin’s New Shepard from a launch pad in Texas. The ship’s crew complement includes three others. Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen will be aboard the flight, as will Medidata co-founder Glen de Vries. The fourth crew member is Blue Origin executive Audrey Powers, formerly a NASA flight controller, who now oversees the New Shepard program’s flight operations.
“Yes, it’s true,” Shatner said on Twitter. “I’m going to be a ‘rocket man!'” As captain of the Enterprise, he commanded a five-year mission “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” This ten-minute flight just beyond the Karman line will be a brief leisure cruise by comparison, befitting a captain in laurelled retirement. At 90, more than 50 years after TOS began, Shatner will become the “oldest person to have flown in space” — and the first Star Trek actor to personally reach the final frontier.
Even if he’s the first, he’s in good company: multiple Star Trek actors have sought out a chance to return to the sky in real life. In 2015, Nichelle Nichols (who played Uhura) joined a group of scientists and educators aboard SOFIA, NASA’s flying stratospheric observatory. And James Doohan, who played the Enterprise’s chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, has truly attained his wish to have a part of himself lie among the stars. An intrepid space tourist snuck a portrait of the actor and some of his ashes aboard the International Space Station in 2008. The space smuggler says he tucked the feather-light memorial under the floor of the Columbus module, and they’re still right there under the cladding, as far as anyone knows.
Read this, and you can hear it in Captain Kirk’s voice, soft, with a note of wonder: “I’ve heard about space for a long time now,” said Shatner. “I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle.”
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