Come for the weightlessness. Stay for the profound and life-altering realization of the fragility of life on our planet.
After a brief trip to space Wednesday morning aboard the latest Blue Origin launch, a deeply emotional William Shatner struggled to put into words the significance of his journey. At 90 years old, Shatner became the oldest person in space.
What most stuck with him, he told Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, wasn’t the weightlessness, or even seeing Earth itself as a blue orb ― it was the sharp contrast between life and death, demarcated by an impossibly thin strip of atmosphere.
Shatner likened the atmosphere to a “comforter of blue” wrapped around the planet. Launching through it, it’s suddenly ripped off, “and you’re looking into blackness,” he recalled, “and you look down ― and there’s blue down there, and the black up there, and it’s just ... it’s just ... there is mother and Earth and comfort, and there ... is there death?”
“Is that death? Is that the way death is?” he pondered. “WHAP and it’s gone. Jesus.”
The actor who famously explored the final frontier as Captain Kirk on “Star Trek” was repeatedly overcome with emotion as he processed the experience aloud. Bezos stood by and offered an occasional hug after initially cutting off Shatner to spray Champagne everywhere.
“I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary,” Shatner said. “I hope I never recover from this. I hope I can maintain what I feel now.”
“It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death and the … oh, my God,” he continued, burying his face in his hands.
“The moment you see the vulnerability of everything. It’s so small. This air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It’s a sliver, it’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe.”