In October of 2021, TV and movie legend William Shatner became the oldest person to go into space when he flew on Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket – an experience that he says filled him with overwhelming sadness.
The 91-year-old Star Trek icon has written a memoir titled, “Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder,” in which he says the 11-minute rocket flight caused him one of the “strongest feelings of grief” he has ever experienced.
Video taken after the rocket landed safely back on Earth showed Bezos and other crewmembers celebrating with champagne and smiles, but Shatner was visibly moved and was brought to tears at one point. In an excerpt of the memoir released by Variety, Shatner wrote that his experience felt less awe-inspiring and more like “a funeral.”
“I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound,” he wrote. He expressed sorrow at what he says is mankind’s careless destruction of the planet.
(Video: Daily Mail)
“It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration,” he explained. “Instead, it felt like a funeral.”
More from the excerpt:
I had thought that going into space would be the ultimate catharsis of that connection I had been looking for between all living things—that being up there would be the next beautiful step to understanding the harmony of the universe. In the film “Contact,” when Jodie Foster’s character goes to space and looks out into the heavens, she lets out an astonished whisper, “They should’ve sent a poet.” I had a different experience, because I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.
It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna . . . things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind. It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.
Talking with Bezos after the landing, Shatner did his best to explain to the Amazon founder what he was feeling
“To see the blue color whip by and now you’re staring into blackness, that’s the thing,” he said. “The covering of blue, this sheath, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around, we say, ‘Oh, that’s blue sky.’ And then suddenly you shoot through it all, and you’re looking into blackness, into black ugliness.”
(Video: Daily Mail)
“As you look down, there’s your blue down there with the black up there. There is Mother Earth and comfort and there is – is there death? I don’t know. Is that the way death is?”
“I’m so filled with emotion with what just happened. I hope I never recover from this,” he said as he hugged Bezos. “It’s so much larger than me and life, and it hasn’t got anything to do with the little green hand or the little blue orb.”
He told Bezos, “Everybody in the world needs to do this.”
The previous record holder for the oldest person in space was the late NASA astronaut John Glenn, who was one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts and became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Decades later, Glenn would join the crew of the space shuttle Discovery (STS-95) in October 1998 at the age of 77.
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