Actor William Shatner has soared aboard a Blue Origin rocketship on a suborbital trip and landed in the Texas desert to become at age 90 the oldest person in space – an experience he called profound.
Shatner, 90, was joined by three others – including former NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen, an Australian – as US billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos’s company carried out its second tourist flight.
Shatner, Mr Bochuizen and clinical research entrepreneur Glen de Vries and Blue Origin vice president and engineer Audrey Powers journeyed for roughly 10 minutes to the edge of space aboard the white fully autonomous 18.3 metres-tall New Shepard spacecraft.
It took took off from Blue Origin’s launch site about 30 kilometres outside the rural west Texas town of Van Horn.
Shortly after, the crew capsule returned to the Texas desert under parachutes, raising a cloud of dust.
Shatner emerged gingerly from the capsule in the desert silence, appearing reflective as the others celebrated by cheering and popping champagne bottles.
Mr Bezos was on hand and embraced the Canadian actor.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” Shatner told Mr Bezos as the two chatted for several minutes.
“I am so filled with emotion about what just happened.”
Shatner – who embodied the promise of space travel in the classic 1960s TV series Star Trek and seven subsequent films – also remarked on the beauty of the blue colour of Earth from space.
The four astronauts experienced about three to four minutes of weightlessness and travelled above the internationally recognised boundary of space known as the Karman Line, about 100 kilometres above Earth.
The four astronauts, all wearing blue flight suits with the company’s name in white letters on one sleeve, climbed into the crew capsule atop the spacecraft before the launch and strapped in after ascending a set of stairs accompanied by Mr Bezos.
Each rang a bell before entering the capsule, with Mr Bezos then closing the hatch.
Before that, they rode a vehicle with Mr Bezos at the wheel to the launch pad.
Winds were light and skies were clear for the launch, which was conducted after two delays totalling roughly 45 minutes.
It was the second space tourism flight for Blue Origin, Mr Bezos’s company founded two decades ago.