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Blue Origin launches William Shatner, TV's Captain Kirk, into space and back

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Blue Origin launches William Shatner, TV's Captain Kirk, into space and back
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos (R) greets Canadian actor William Shatner as the 90-year-old actor emerges in the Texas desert from the capsule that took him into space Wednesday morning. Photo courtesy of Blue Origin/EPA-EFE

Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Star Trek actor William Shatner went boldly into space Wednesday morning and returned safely with three crew members aboard a Blue Origin capsule launched from West Texas.

Shatner, 90, becomes the oldest person ever to reach space. The New Shepard rocket that carried the crew lifted off into a mostly sunny sky at 10:50 a.m. EDT from the company's Launch Site One about 160 miles east of El Paso.

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The capsule touched down 11 minutes later after reaching space and descending back to the Texas dessert.

"That was unlike anything you described, unlike anything I've experienced," Shatner was heard saying on a live broadcast during descent.

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He appeared overcome with emotion after the flight as he thanked Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, who pinned astronaut wings on the four crew members. Shatner said viewing Earth's atmosphere made him feel it was fragile -- a "sliver" of precious air.

"Everyone needs to see ... the blue down there, and the black up there. It was so moving to me," Shatner said.

"What you have given me is the most profound experience," he told Bezos. "I'm so emotional about what just happened."

Shatner, who portrayed Captain James. T. Kirk in the 1960s television series, said in a Blue Origin video that he's aware of the impact his spaceflight will have.

"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!" Shatner said.

Shatner was an invited guest of Blue Origin. He traveled with two businessmen who are paying customers and a company executive, Audrey Powers, the vice president of mission and flight operations.

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The passengers were Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer and co-founder of San Francisco-based satellite company Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, a French software firm executive and co-founder of New York clinical trials technology firm Medidata.

The mission was titled NS-18 for the 18th flight of a New Shepard rocket. It was only the second crewed mission for Blue Origin, after Bezos flew July 20 with three crew members.

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Blue Origin delayed the launch due to winds at the launch site Tuesday. Flight director Nick Patrick said in a video release that the crew spent the day training.

The capsule passed the Karman line, about 62 miles high -- an international definition of space.

The crew spent about three minutes in weightlessness before strapping in for the descent, ultimately under parachutes.

Training covered what would happen if safety systems activated, primarily a backup parachute, and how to move safely in weightlessness.

Patrick said watching Shatner actually go to space in real life and not just on a fictional TV show would be a treat.

"He's somebody who's been responsible, I think, for inspiring millions of us to be interested in space exploration and spaceflight. And somebody who certainly inspired me to get into this business," he said.

Out-of-this-world images from space

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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