William Shatner came back to Earth “overwhelmed” with the value of life on our planet, he said in a recent interview.
The actor and comedian, best known for playing Captain James T. Kirk on “The Original Series” of “Star Trek” (1966 to 1969, and several movies), was the starring crew member on Blue Origin’s NS-18 suborbital flight that launched and landed Wednesday (Oct. 13).
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” on Thursday (Oct. 14), Shatner said he was “overwhelmed” with the view out the window of the New Shepard spacecraft and what he perceived as a contrast between the “life” on Earth and the “death” he saw in space, echoing comments he made shortly after landing.
“We need to take care of the planet, but it’s so fragile,” he said. “There’s this little tiny blue skin that is 50 miles wide, and we pollute it, and it’s our means of living.”
The 90-year-old actor turned astronaut said that there was a whole “physical experience” associated with the 11-minute flight, in which he experienced everything from the ease of floating in zero G to the pressure of 5 Gs, or forces of Earth’s gravity, pressing down on him during landing.
“As I’m coming down, I’m thinking, ‘You know something? I’m 90 years old,'” he said. But he said the training prepared him well to be cautious in weightlessness. “You’ve got to grab a hold of something, don’t push too hard with your hands, just use your fingertips — because you’ll bounce off the ceiling.”
Microgravity, he continued, was “indescribable” and he said he felt no pressure in his guts. “Suddenly, your body is expanding. Secondly, you’re floating.” Describing how he felt during the three minutes of zero gravity, he added, “I don’t want to turn somersaults. I don’t want to throw Skittles. I want to look out the window.” (Indeed, footage from the spacecraft showed Shatner glued to the window.)
Coming back to Earth was tough on his body, Shatner acknowledged, as “50 miles of air comes like a thud as the spaceship hits the atmosphere.”
Recalling his thinking at the time, he added, “You know that the parachutes should deploy, and will they? Bang. They deployed! You think, okay, I’m going to be all right. … they’ve got boosters on the bottom of that thing so you don’t hit it [the ground] too hard, [but] if they don’t go off, something terrible will happen.”
Shatner’s latest spoken-word album, “Bill,” was released last month. It includes a song, with Brad Paisley, reflecting on the Apollo 11 mission of 1969 that’s called “So Far From The Moon.”
During Thursday’s interview, the actor recalled “looking up at the sky, seeing the astronauts walk on the moon, and I was so far from the moon” while the landing was happening. Rounding the 52-year anniversary up a little, he added, “55 years later, here I am a little closer to the moon than you guys. The irony of it strikes me.”