In recent years, private companies have been taking a deep interest in space travel. At 90-years-young, iconic Canadian actor William Shatner, best known for his portrayal of Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek, shot off into space on Blue Origin’s second human spaceflight and became the oldest person to ever go to space. Shatner hitched his October space ride aboard a suborbital spacecraft that traveled to the edge of outer space. Before the capsule’s parachute landing, Shatner was recorded saying, “That was unlike anything they described.”
During his flight into space, Shatner shattered the record of American aviator and space tourist Wally Funk, who was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Silk Oklahoma, and the first female Federal Aviation Agency inspector. She was also a member of the Mercury 13, qualifying for spaceflight in the 1960s. However, she never jetted into space until this year aboard Blue Origin’s first human space flight in July of 2021, at age 82.
While there is some concern over older people spending time in space, a quick flight there and back for an older person in good shape is deemed safe among those who are mentally and physically fit for the stresses of launch, reentry, and landing. In fact, per The Conversation, during simulations of suborbital flight paths on a centrifuge in people aged 20 to 78, older people were found to tolerate better the high g-forces experienced during reentry through the atmosphere. They expound, “Anyone like Shatner who only spends a few minutes in microgravity won’t need to worry about this too much.”
Founder of both Amazon and Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, greeted the passengers upon their descent back to earth. To Bezos, Shatner said, “You have done something.” He explained, “What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine.” The actor was part of a four-person crew, of which only two aboard paid for their flights. The paying passengers were Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of the earth imaging satellite company Planet Labs, and software executive and founder of Medidata Solutions, Glen de Vries. The company has not disclosed what they paid for their seats. Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president, and Shatner did not pay, though Shatner’s net worth is a purported $100 million (2020).
Space tourism, a newer form of sightseeing, will likely become open to a wide spectrum of people in the future, encompassing all sexes, ages, and races. However, currently, most will likely pay a big sum for the chance to go. Since most civilians cannot afford a personal journey into space at this time, including myself, it remains encouraging to see advancements in space travel from the comfort of our living rooms. It’s cool to think that space travel opportunities may be present for our grandchildren, greats, and beyond one day. Moreover, it is deeply satisfying to know that a 90-year-old person can set an exciting record in space travel, demonstrating that advanced age doesn’t have to be a barrier. As English actress, Joan Collins remarked, “Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.”
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