William Shatner says Earth looked 'so fragile' from space on Blue Origin flight (video)

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."

Video: Watch William Shatner gaze at Earth from space in awe
In photos:
William Shatner's space launch with Blue Origin

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."

The passenger crew of Blue Origin's NS-18 space tourist flight poses with their New Shepard capsule after landing back on Earth on Oct. 13, 2021. They are: (from left): Audrey Powers, William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

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."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace