William Shatter Goes To Space

The next roller coaster ride to the edge of space by Jeff Bezos’ space tourism rocket, New Shepard, will include 90 year-old William Shatter, the actor who helped kick-off the now epic Star Wars saga as Captain James Tiberius Kirk. His five minute mission to explore strange new industries will likely launch on Wednesday, October 13th.

While Shatner has enough money to pay for his own ride, I’m told that he chose Blue Origin over Virgin Galactic because Bezos seems to recognize Shatner’s promotional value for his company. William Shatner has done commercials before, enjoys doing them, and has made them an important part of it career. So, Bezos is footing the cost of Shatner’s flight and calling it advertising.

“I’m terrified. I’m Captain Kirk, and I’m terrified,” he said on Thursday at the Comic-Con in New York. “I’m not really terrified — yes I am. It comes and goes like a summer cold.”

William Shatner at GalaxyCon Richmond in 2020
Source: Wikipedia

At 90 years old, he will be the oldest person to cross the Carmen line to space…the next closest is women in aerospace pioneer Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk who flew on New Shepard’s first crewed flight at age 82 on July 1 of this year. That flight also carried the youngest person to go to space and the first brothers to go to space together.

Popular opinion holds that Bezos and Branson have built joy rides for the rich with their New Shepard and VSS Unity space ships. However, the price tag is not really all that high. Also, these suborbital trips to space, however brief, still do exploration research. Among other things, NASA and government agencies for countries with whom Bezos and Branson are allowed to do business can use these cheap flights to help test their equipment and train their people for future orbital flights. The next Virgin Galactic launch of VSS Unity this month will be a research mission for the Italian Air Force.

Also, besides the obvious promotional value that tends to stick to famous folks like William Shatner, at least until the novelty of these flights wears down a little (do you hear that Lady Gaga and Justine Bieber?), the six digit price tag of these flights is affordable by practically any multi-million dollar technology company to train people and test equipment destined for the rapidly growing orbital spaceflight industry.

So, expect to see these two businesses, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, competing directly on price, customer satisfaction, and launch frequency to lead out a new suborbital space tourism industry. They both flew in July and will both fly in October. After the popularity of Inspiration4’s flight in September, SpaceX will build new Dragon capsules so that they can fly folks to orbit a minimum of 4 times a year…in addition to their contract obligations to NASA for the International Space Station. BTW, NASA has now moved two astronauts to Dragon from Boeing’s long-delayed CST-100 Starliner and are talking to SpaceX about more flights than originally planned because Boeing still can’t seem to get their act together. Boeing is a good company and hopefully they’ll figure this stuff out and compete better in the future. Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have orbital plans as well.

Things will move quickly from here on out.

10/10/2021 Update: This article was updated to reflect an announcement by Blue Origin that the flight has been delayed to October 13 due to weather. I wonder if the solar storm tomorrow is part of that.

~ by Bill Housley on October 8, 2021.

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