Famous words that have been used many times at the beginning of the 1960’s TV series “Star Trek”, searing them into our brains with repetition. The phrase encapsulates and awakens the dormant explorer in us all. William Shatner, as Captain Kirk on the show, went to different worlds dealing with different life forms and situations on other planets. Today on October 13, 2021, more than 50 years after the original show was over, life imitates art in an emotionally moving fashion. In a masterful public relations stunt, Jeff Bezos invited the 90 year old William Shatner to actually fly in his “Blue Origins” vehicle to the edge of space, commonly referred as the “blue line”. The boundary layer somewhere about 60 miles up where the atmosphere of earth essentially stops and can be seen by a change of color from the beautiful sky blue to the inky blackness of space.
The flight takes place with the passengers in a capsule that is launched by super powered rocket straight up to the edge of space, where is detaches from the rocket and lingers for a few minutes, giving the passengers a chance to leave their seats and enjoy feeling weightless. The capsule then returns to earth slowed by parachutes and a booster engine that assists as the capsule lands close to where it took off. This is like the “spy hops” that dolphins jumping out of the water do to take a look around above the water and see what is out there. Watching the takeoff, flight and landing was very familiar to those that monitor the space race and each step was impressively executed.
The best moment of the short news clip I saw about this adventure was at the end where William Shatner gets out of the vehicle and thanks Jeff Bezos for the most transformative experience he has had in a life time. Totally unscripted he grows eloquent about his impressions and experience that is incredibly moving to watch. He talks about shooting right past the blue line into the inky blackness of space in seconds, making him realize just how thin our atmosphere is that protects the whole planet. Looking up he could see death. Looking down, he could see wondrous life on the planet. At 90 years of age, he mentions his nearing personal death and that he is grappling with it mentally. At 90, he is still riding and showing horses and having a great life. It is rumored that he visited his horses before going on this trip as he knew that this joy ride might kill him. Yes, we all say: “Well what do you expect at 90? He would not lose many years compared to a younger person.” The safe play it not to fly. No one wants to go into death sooner but at the same time he has the guts to put it on the line and go for the gusto and live life to the fullest, a full representation of the spirit of “Captain Kirk”. A lesson we all need to learn again and again as we seem to forget it.
William Shatner, and the other passengers with him, were technically just passengers on the capsule, as they did not play any role in guiding or controlling the vehicle in which they were riding, like a highly trained professional astronaut would be expected to do. Nonetheless, they have been warmly welcomed by professional astronauts into the small club of those who have ventured into space. When asked how it felt to be an astronaut, Shatner basically explained the it is Captain Kirk who was the true, fearless and skilled astronaut, while he was just a scared human on the adventure of a lifetime.
What Jeff Bezos may not have anticipated is the full impact of what William Shatner said spontaneously. This event will be remembered by any Star Trek fan watching it (of which there are millions out there including Bezos, who has not heard of Captain Kirk?). His comment on how fast he traversed the blue line, how thin it is, how fragile this only defence of this planet is and that life on it that can be snuffed out in an instant. This will have ramifications on the ecologic movement looking to “save the planet”. I would hope this is a unifying call to all of us to look at what humans are doing to mother earth. We need to look at what we can do to help.
“Life imitating art” happens when we imagine something but then it becomes reality, as was really evident today. Jeff Bezos is a Star Trek fan who really enjoyed the antics and experiences that Captain Kirk had on the show. How much of that enjoyment and stimulation of the imagination was the motivation for him to build “Blue Origins” when he finally had acquired enough money to build it? He had the imagination to build all the companies that he has, write the software that runs certain businesses like The Washington Post, create countless of job opportunities, and in so doing improve the economy and the country. Now, with this PR event and the help of William Shatner, he may have ignited the imagination of those watching and unified our understanding that we must take care of mother earth. WE HAVE SEEN A GLIMPSE OF WHAT IS POSSIBLE IF WE USE OUR IMAGINATION!
The final warning is also evident: be careful of what you desire and imagine as these thoughts can become reality! (good or bad!) For me it had all these effects and made me realize that time is fleeting and we are all eventually terminal so make the best use of your time and energy. You need to get out there and experience life to the fullest. It does not mean that you need to take unnecessary risk however, but do calculate the risk to reward benefit and if favorable, GO FOR IT and “To boldly go where no man has been before…” is a great motivating mantra.
Good Luck and “Live long and prosper.” (I will quit now)
Link for video on CBS