NEW YORK — Days after news broke that William Shatner would reach space with Blue Origin on Oct. 12, the "Star Trek" actor admitted that he's experiencing some pre-flight jitters.
During a panel on Thursday evening (Oct. 7) at New York Comic Con, Shatner shared his feelings ahead of the Blue Origin mission and talked about the importance of civilian space initiatives like these suborbital flights. Shatner is due to blast off from Blue Origin's west Texas launch site aboard a New Shepard vehicle in just four days; you can follow the mission live with Space.com.
But his excitement doesn't mean the nerves aren't setting in. "I'm terrified," Shatner said. "I know!...I'm Captain bloody Kirk and I'm terrified!"
Last week, Shatner broke the news of his scheduled flight to space, writing in a tweet (opens in new tab), "Yes, it's true; I'm going to be a 'rocket man!'" Instantly, the sci-fi community was enchanted by the idea that a figure from such a renowned sci-fi franchise as "Star Trek" would actually journey to the final frontier.
The 90-year-old Canadian actor, who also appeared in the television series "The Twilight Zone" and "T.J. Hooker," took to the stage to deliver what seemed like a one-man show, albeit abbreviated.
Shatner began with a joke, "You're here because you want to know the recipe for strawberry pie."
But very quickly, the tone changed to one of curiosity. Shatner begged the audience to acknowledge and marvel at natural phenomena: from how tree roots communicate with each other via electrochemical impulses to how a photon mysteriously behaves as both a wave and a particle. In the process, Shatner called all of these "miracles" "the unknowable" and emphasized that they must become known.
Shatner then abruptly segued. "So, I'm going up," he said. "I'm scared." The crowd roared with laughter and cheered in support. It was the first time these fans were hearing confirmation of the mission straight from the source.
Shatner said that he was offered the opportunity to fly on one of Blue Origin's crewed missions by Jeff Bezos, the company's founder, who flew on the first crewed flight of the New Shepard system in July.
"'You'll be the oldest guy in space,'" Shatner said Bezos told him, adding that his own response was. "I don't want to be the oldest guy in space. I'm Captain Kirk!"
Shatner touched on his other ties to the world of space, citing his interview with physicist Stephen Hawking on the show, "Raw Nerve," which may have been the scientist's last interview before his death.
The loveliest part of the evening spotlight, however, was when Shatner referenced Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" and spoke to the importance of physically leaving planet Earth, calling it "the experience of walking into that limitless distance." He said that distance allows us to see just how small we are in comparison to the universe and he returned to the topic of "the unknowable," saying that we have much to observe and to learn.
Despite this honest and very human admission, Shatner went on to express that he feels excited and fortunate to be embarking upon such a historic mission.
Shatner will fly with three other passengers, including Audrey Powers, Blue Origin's vice president of mission and flight operations. Liftoff is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and the flight is expected to last a little longer than 10 minutes.