It’s official: after plenty of hype and a slight delay, William Shatner has become the oldest person to fly to space. The 90-year-old Star Trek icon was one of four crew members aboard Blue Origin’s NS-18 mission as it flew to an altitude of 66 miles. He edged out 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, who set the previous age record just a few months earlier.
The New Shepard flight also included Blue Origin VP Audrey Powers, Planet Labs co-founder Dr. Chris Boshuizen and Medidata co-creator Glen de Vries. This is the second of three crewed missions Blue Origin has planned for 2021.
This is an important moment for spaceflight, not to mention sci-fi fans. It shows that age isn’t much of a restriction for brief trips to space, and fulfills the dreams of anyone who wanted to see Captain Kirk visit the final frontier in real life — even if he wasn’t helming a starship.
With that said, it’s also a timely public relations boost for Blue Origin. Jeff Bezos’ private spaceflight outfit is currently grappling with accusations of a toxic work environment, not to mention the fallout of its legal tussle with SpaceX over NASA’s Moon mission contract. Shatner’s successful trip won’t completely distract from those issues, but it might give Blue Origin a chance to highlight some achievements at a time when many are focused on its shortcomings.
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