Captain Kirk will boldly go where some men have gone before, on a suborbital flight aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch system.
Actor William Shatner of “Star Trek” fame and Blue Origin‘s Audrey Powers, the vice president of missions and flight operations, will fill the last two seats on the company’s second crewed flight, due to blast off from New Shepard’s west Texas launch site in just over a week, on Oct. 12. Rumors were swirling in late September that the 90-year-old actor would be on the company’s second flight, which today’s announcement confirms.
“I’ve heard about space for a long time now,” Shatner said in a Blue Origin statement. “I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle.”
Shatner and his crewmates will fly just shy of three months after New Shepard’s first crewed flight, which carried the company’s founder, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and three other passengers on a 10-minute flight that reached 66.5 miles (107 kilometers) in altitude.
The announcement comes just days after nearly two dozen current and former Blue Origin employees published an essay on a site called Lioness highlighting concerns about the company’s safety practices and overall culture. Notably, the essay stated that, “Many of this essay’s authors say they would not fly on a Blue Origin vehicle.”
When asked for comment about the claims in the essay, a Blue Origin spokesperson said, “We stand by our safety record and believe that New Shepard is the safest space vehicle ever designed or built.”
Powers, who appears to be flying in her official capacity rather than as a paying customer, spoke to similar points in the statement announcing her flight.
“I’m so proud and humbled to fly on behalf of Team Blue, and I’m excited to continue writing Blue’s human spaceflight history,” she said. “I was part of the amazing effort we assembled for New Shepard’s Human Flight Certification Review, a years-long initiative completed in July 2021. As an engineer and lawyer with more than two decades of experience in the aerospace industry, I have great confidence in our New Shepard team and the vehicle we’ve developed.”
Shatner and Powers will join two previously announced passengers: Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Earth observation company Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, vice chair for life sciences and healthcare at French software company Dassault Systèmes, whose flight plans were announced on Sept. 27.
The flight will make Shatner the oldest person to reach space, surpassing the record set during the July flight by 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, whom Bezos personally invited to join his crew. The oldest person to reach orbital space is John Glenn, also the first American to reach orbital space, who made a last flight at age 77.
Blue Origin has not publicly announced the cost of a ride on New Shepard. The company sold a seat on its first crewed mission at auction for $28 million, but the winning bidder chose not to join the flight after all.
At least for that flight, Blue Origin also included a strict list of eligibility requirements, including height and weight restrictions. Passengers also needed to be able to climb seven flights of stairs in 90 seconds and remain in a reclined seat for at least 90 minutes.