Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight venture Blue Origin is launching William Shatner — aka Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise — to space on the company’s New Shepard rocket. At 90 years old, he’ll become the oldest person to fly to space, surpassing legendary aviator Wally Funk, who flew on the first crewed flight of New Shepard this summer.
TMZ first broke the news that Shatner would be flying on the next New Shepard flight, which is currently scheduled for October 12th out of Blue Origin’s launch facility in West Texas. The outlet claimed the Shatner’s flight will be filmed as part of a documentary. Shatner will be joined by two other customers announced earlier by Blue Origin: Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer who co-founded the small satellite company Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, the co-founder of software company Medidata and vice chair of life sciences at Dassault Systèmes, a French software company. Blue Origin also announced today that Audrey Powers, the company’s vice president of mission and flight operations, will become the fourth passenger on the flight.
This will be the second flight of New Shepard to carry people to the edge of space and back, as Blue Origin transitions into regular commercial flights of its suborbital rocket. After many years of test flights, the vehicle carried its first humans to space in July — a crew that consisted of Funk, Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and a Dutch teenager named Oliver Daemen, whose father paid an undisclosed sum for the ticket.
The New Shepard rocket is designed to launch vertically from Earth, carrying up to four passengers in a crew capsule on top. It then climbs above an altitude of roughly 62 miles (100 kilometers) over the Earth, where the planet’s thin atmosphere gives way to the vacuum of space. While in the sky, the capsule and the rocket separate, and the passengers inside feel a few brief minutes of weightlessness. Both parts of the vehicle fall back to Earth; the rocket lands upright after reigniting its main engine and the capsule lands under three main parachutes. All in all, the flight lasts about 11 minutes, from liftoff to capsule touchdown.
Shatner’s announcement comes just a few days after current and former employees at Blue Origin published a public essay alleging systemic sexual harassment and an unsafe work culture at the company. The essay claimed that at least one major executive had sexually harassed employees before getting fired for groping a female worker. The employees also expressed concern over the safety of Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle, citing a culture where competition was prioritized over safety, in which workers feared retaliation for raising concerns.