With 'Captain Kirk' aboard, Blue Origin to return to 'space, the final frontier'


VAN HORN, TEXAS, October 13 ------ 'Star Trek' actor William Shatner, 90, is set to soar into space. Three months after billionaire US businessman Jeff Bezos soared into space aboard a rocketship built by his Blue Origin company, the craft is set on Wednesday, October 13, to take another all-civilian crew on a suborbital ride, this time with Star Trek actor William Shatner in the lead role.


As one of four passengers selected for the flight, Shatner, at age 90, is poised to become the oldest person ever to venture into space. Shatner has become a pop culture mainstay for playing Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise in the classic 1960s television series and seven subsequent films. Shatner now gets to live out the mission he described during the opening credits of each episode of the series to explore "space – the final frontier." "I'm going to see the vastness of space and the extraordinary miracle of our Earth and how fragile it is compared to the forces at work in the universe," Shatner told NBC's Today program. "I'm thrilled and anxious - and a little nervous and a little frightened - about this whole new adventure."


After a 24-hour wind-related postponement, Shatner and his fellow passengers on Wednesday are set to strap into Blue Origin's fully autonomous 60-foot-tall (18.3-meters-tall) New Shepard rocket, blasting off at 9 am CDT (10 pm Manila time) from a launch site outside the rural west Texas town of Van Horn on a journey to the edge of space.


The four crew members went through training on Tuesday, October 12 and the mission team completed a flight-readiness evaluation to ensure "all systems are go for launch," Blue Origin said on Twitter. "Forecasted winds at launch have subsided and weather currently looks good for Wednesday," Blue Origin added. The launch represents another crucial test of Blue Origin's technology as the company competes against billionaire-backed rivals – Elon Musk's SpaceX and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc – to attract customers willing to pay large amounts of money to experience the exhilaration of spaceflight.


Wednesday's flight is expected to roughly follow the duration and path of Blue Origin's inaugural commercial trip on July 20 when Bezos, founder of ecommerce powerhouse Amazon.com Inc, and three other passengers took a suborbital flight lasting just over 10 minutes. The New Shepard vehicle carried the foursome 66.5 miles (107 km) above the Earth, giving its passengers a few minutes of weightlessness, before the crew capsule parachuted safely back to the floor of the Texas desert. On that flight, pioneering female aviator Wally Funk at age 82 became the oldest person to reach space.


The three other crew members joining Shatner include: Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer; Glen de Vries, a clinical research entrepreneur; and Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president and engineer.


Source: rappler.com