By David Shepardson and Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON -William Shatner, the “Star Trek” actor who found fame by pretending a Hollywood soundstage was a spaceship exploring the galaxy, will be launched to the edge of space for real next week in a rocket built by Blue Origin, billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space company.
Shatner, best known as Captain Kirk in the original “Star Trek” television series, will be part of a four-person crew aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle on the flight scheduled for the morning of Oct. 12, the company said on Monday.
“I’ve heard about space for a long time now,” Shatner, 90, said in a statement released by Blue Origin. “I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle.”
In July, Bezos, the founder of Amazon, soared about 66.5 miles (107 km) above the Texas desert aboard a New Shepard launch vehicle and returned safely to Earth.
Blue Origin said pioneering woman aviator Wally Funk, 82, was the oldest person to reach space when she joined Bezos on the July flight. Shatner is set to break that record.
The actor is flying as a guest of Blue Origin, but the company says it has also sold nearly $100 million in tickets to paying customers, though it has not said how many.
Shatner will be joined by Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer; Glen de Vries, a clinical research entrepreneur; and Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president and engineer. It was not immediately clear whether they were “Star Trek” fans.
Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000. New Shepard hurtled at speeds reaching 2,233 miles (3,595 km) per hour, exceeding the Karman Line – 62 miles (100 km) straight up – set by an international aeronautics body to define the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
Shatner first played the role of Captain James T. Kirk in 1966 in a television franchise that many NASA astronauts credited with igniting their love of space. He also played the role in seven feature films.
On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would review safety concerns raised by current and former Blue Origin employees who said the company “often prioritizes execution speed and cost reduction over the appropriate resourcing to ensure quality.”
Blue Origin said it promptly investigates any misconduct concerns raised by employees and stood by its safety record.