Actor William Shatner, 90 years old, became the oldest human to fly into space on the private blue-origin Blue Origin New Shepard capsule. He might be one of the strongest advocates of private space tourism because of his post-launch comments about the transformational experience that private space tourism offers.
“To see the blue cover whip by and now you’re staring to into blackness,” said a tearful Shatner—famous for playing Capt. James T. Kirk Star Trek—to Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos moments after planting his feet on Terra Firma in the West Texas desert. “There’s both the blue and black down there. There are mother, earth and comfort. But there’s also death. That’s all I know. Do you think that is what death looks like? It was very moving.”
The short 10-minute flight took Shatner and three fellow crew members 66 miles above the planet’s surface, or just about the “Kármán line” that marks the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
Shatner’s portrayal of Kirk as a space-faring man clearly made space travel today an absurd conversion of fantasies into reality. This launch shows how far space technology has come since Shatner was pretending to visit the stars.
If Star Trek Space travel first became popular in late 1960s. It was only for highly-trained professional astronauts who traveled aboard spacecraft built by massive space programs funded by two powerful superpowers that were primarily concerned with propaganda victories to add to their nuclear arsenal.
Now, fast forward to today. Shatner’s Blue Origin flight marks the latest landmark-setting launch in a growing private space tourism sector.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX was able to send the first civilian crew into space last month. It did so for three days and was privately funded. The launch follows Elon Musk’s Crew Dragon mission last year that brought two NASA astronauts from America to the International Space Station.
Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic made their first space flights earlier this summer with billionaires onboard.
Progressives were critical of these flights, pointing out that billionaires used their wealth to push the boundaries of space technology and not improve the daily lives of the people they serve. They suggested that the wealth tax be used to confiscate these funds and channel them into government agencies on Earth dedicated to solving real-world issues in education and health.
Although space travel may not be a common reality, it is possible. It’s currently only an option for those who are extremely wealthy, well-known and lucky to have won the lottery. This is true for many of the inventions which are boringly familiar, such as smartphones and automobiles.
All of these things are now part of our modern lives, rich and poor alike. Space flight is possible if there are enough resources and enough taxes.
Still, critics might argue that billionaire vanity projects will become glorified entertainment rides for the poorer. Shatner himself, however, has his own post-launch observations that show that even his very brief journey to space was much more than an amusement ride.
Bezos said “Everybody needs to do that.” He added, saying, “What I’ve received from you is the most meaningful experience I could imagine.” This is what I feel so overwhelmed by emotion. This is something I will never forget. “I hope that I will be able to feel the same way I do now.”