Star Trek star William Shatner is about to go where no 90-year-old has gone before — just higher than than the internationally recognized boundary of space. Not exactly the final frontier, but certainly its front porch.
It will be the first crewed launch for the company since the July 20 flight that took Jeff Bezos to space, and the first private spaceflight since the September 16 SpaceX Inspiration 4 mission, which took internet payment systems billionaire Jared Isaacman and three crewmates on a two-day orbital flight aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
NS-18 won’t fly as high or as long as Inspiration 4, and it won’t be the first crewed launch for Blue Origin given Bezos’s flight over the summer. But if the goal of commercial space tourism companies is to make space flight common and accessible while still maintaining the allure, NS-18 may be an important sophomore effort with added symbolic weight to boot.
Shatner portrayed Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise in the beloved Star Trek TV series and seven motion pictures, and while the New Shepherd vehicle is no starship, it has the benefit of being real.
“I’ve heard about space for a long time now,” Shatner said in a prepared statement. “I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle.”
How to watch the Blue Origin William Shatner launch online
NS-18 was scheduled to launch Tuesday, October 12, from Blue Origin’s Launch Site one in West Texas. However, due to a change in weather, the launch has been moved to October 13.
“Due to forecasted winds on Tuesday, October 12, Blue Origin's mission operations team has made the decision to delay the launch of NS-18 and is now targeting Wednesday, October 13,” Blue Origin said in a statement.
What time to watch William Shatner go to space
The Wednesday, October 13, 2021 launch of Shatner aboard the Blue Origin rocket is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Central, according to a press release issued by the company on Sunday.
Live coverage will begin 90 minutes before launch at www.BlueOrigin.com.
Who else is in the Blue Origin crew with William Shatner?
Joining Shatner for the roughly 11-minute flight are Blue Origin Vice President of Mission and Flight Operations Audrey Powers; Glen de Vries, the co-Founder of clinical trial software company Medidata Solutions; and Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of remote imaging company Planet Labs and venture capitalist with DCVC.
Does Blue Origin NS-18 matter?
It’s not the first crewed Blue Origin launch or the first civilian launch into space, but NS-18 is important as proof that the space tourism industry envisioned by Blue Origin has legs — and wasn’t just a very expensive one-time trip for Bezos and his brother Mark.
The flight also carries symbolic heft of lofting Shatner, who inspired millions of space fans with his portrayal of the Captain of the Starship Enterprise beginning in 1966, even if the New Shepard capsule is more like the spacecraft Shatner piloted to Venus in the 1964 Outer Limits episode “Cold Hands, Warm Heart.”
But NS-18 will still claim one space record. At 90-years-old, Shatner will become the oldest person to fly in space, a record previously held by the 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk, who set the mark as a guest crewmate of Jeff Bezos on his July 20 New Shepard flight.
Is William Shatner really going to space? — If all goes well, Shatner is definitely going to space. Whether that makes him an astronaut may be a different matter.
Richard Branson beat Jeff Bezos in the battle of the space billionaires to get their launch vehicles up first, but whether Branson actually reached space has been a topic of debate. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two flew to a height of 53.5 miles, while the internationally recognized boundary of space — the Karman line — sits at 62 miles. The New Shepard capsule carrying Bezos reached around 116 miles altitude, and NS-18 should fly to similar heights.
The FAA only requires flying to a height of 50 miles to qualify a person for commercial astronaut wings, but altitude alone is not the only criteria. According to an FAA order released the day of Bezos’s flight, participants must also have: “Demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety.”
The crew of Inspiration 4, who conducted space medicine experiments while in orbit, should qualify for commercial astronaut wings under the new criteria, but those riding to space for the experience alone may not. Even starship captains.