Watch LIVE: Van Horn countdown underway for Capt. Kirk’s blast into space at 8:50AM
VAN HORN, Texas — Actor William Shatner counted down Wednesday morning to his wildest role yet: riding a rocket into space, courtesy of “Star Trek” fan Jeff Bezos.
Best known for his role as Captain Kirk, the 90-year-old Shatner joined three other passengers for the launch, currently expected to occur about 8:50 a.m. MT from Van Horn in Culberson County.
Bezos’ space travel company, Blue Origin, invited Shatner on the brief jaunt to the fringes of the final frontier, which will make him the oldest person in space.
It will be Blue Origin’s second passenger flight, using the same capsule and rocket that Bezos used for his own launch three months ago. The trip should last just 10 minutes, with the fully automated capsule reaching a maximum altitude of about 66 miles (106 kilometers) before parachuting back into the desert.
As Shatner and the other passengers awaited the launch, they received a special message from Blue Origin’s first crew, including 82-year-old Wally Funk.
“I hope this flight will be the most fantastic experience of your life as it was mine,” Funk said. “Take time to enjoy every aspect of this journey from liftoff to touchdown.”
Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson kicked off the U.S.-based space tourism boom on July 11, riding his own rocketship to space. Bezos followed nine days later aboard his own capsule. Elon Musk stayed behind as his SpaceX company launched its first private flight last month, sending a billionaire, cancer survivor and two ticket winners into orbit.
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 on the eve of his flight. “It looks like there’s a great deal of curiosity about this fictional character, Captain Kirk, going into space. So let’s go along with it and enjoy the ride.”
Rounding out the crew: a Blue Origin vice president and two entrepreneurs who bid unsuccessfully for a seat on the previous flight with Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Blue Origin did not divulge their ticket prices.
Bezos was at the expansive launch and landing site near Van Horn to see the four off.
Bezos greeted each astronaut individually with hugs and well-wishes as they boarded the capsule. Shatner appeared all-smiles as the team made the final preparations for launch.
Astronauts are not wearing helmets to enhance the “human experience,” a Blue Origin official said.
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