William Shatner goes to space on Blue Origin mission

By Jackie Wattles, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 6:31 PM ET, Wed October 13, 2021
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10:38 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

The Blue Origin launch hold has been lifted

The latest hold has been released. The countdown is back underway and the rocket is expected to launch in just about 12 minutes.

10:38 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

Wally Funk and other space tourists from Blue Origin's first flight send messages for William Shatner and crew

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

(Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin's first flight crew, that included Jeff Bezos and Wally Funk, sent their messages to actor William Shatner and his crew ahead of their spaceflight.

Their messages, that were relayed by the mission control room were as follows:

From Wally Funk:

"I hope this flight will be the most fantastic experience of your life as it was mine. Take time to enjoy every aspect of this journey from liftoff to touchdown. ... Together, let's cross new boundaries and set new records. I will be watching your liftoff with great enthusiasm and sending my best wishes. Godspeed, Audrey, Bill, Glen and Chris. Much love, Wally."

From Mark Bezos:

"You lucky bastards. It was only 10 weeks ago I was sitting where you are watching the countdown clock full of anticipation and excitement, eager to feel the rumble of liftoff and the majesty of weightlessness. The depth of my desire to fly again is hard to express. So allow me to quote from the classic of the great American song book "Mr. Spaceman," with lyrics by William Shatner. 

"Hey, Mr. Spaceman, won't you please take me along. I won't do anything wrong. Hey, Mr. Spaceman, won't you please take me along for a ride? Godspeed 'New Shepard,' I can't wait to hear your stories. Mark."

From Oliver Daemen:

"Dear NS-18 travelers, you have probably been playing this moment over and over in thoughts, and also quite often in real life in the case of Mr. Shatner. But now the moment is there — the moment you're really going to space, and I can assure you it will be better than your best imagination. No day passes by that we don't look back on this journey without having a smile from ear to ear. Have a safe flight and enjoy. Greetings from your youngest predecessor, Oliver Daeman."

10:20 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

Blue Origin launch is on hold again

With 15 minutes to go, the launch is on hold again.

Blue Origin tweeted that final checks on the rocket are being performed.

Earlier this morning, the launch went into a brief hold as the crew worked on "vehicle readiness."

10:32 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

The passengers are now strapped in and ready to go

With about 15 minutes to go until lift off, the four passengers on board the New Shepard vehicle are strapped into their seats.

Actor William Shatner is among the four on board, alongside Audrey Powers, who is Blue Origin's vice president of mission and flight operations, Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries.

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos closed the door to the capsule after the travelers loaded in.

At age 90, Shatner will become the oldest person to have flown in space.

10:39 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

The rocket is about to lift off. Here are key things to know about William Shatner's space flight.

From CNN's Jackie Wattles

William Shatner — who gained international fame playing the iconic role of Captain Kirk on "Star Trek" — will make a very real trek to outer space soon, if only for a brief suborbital joyride aboard a New Shepard rocket.

It's the same one that took Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos to space this summer.

A joyride aboard a Starfleet spaceship, it will not be. Rather, the group will strap themselves inside a capsule that sits atop BlueOrigin's 60-foot-tall New Shepard rocket, which will soar up to about three times the speed of sound and reach more than 62 miles high before coming immediately back down to Earth. From beginning to end, the trip will take about 10 minutes.

Here's everything you need to know:

Is it safe?

  • Blue Origin has conducted more than a dozen uncrewed test flights of New Shepard, and Bezos decided to put himself on the first-ever crewed flight in July — in part to demonstrate that he trusts his own life with Blue Origin's technology.
  • This Blue Origin flight will make Shatner the oldest person ever to travel to space, beating the record set just a few months ago by 82-year-old Wally Funk, who was a former astronaut trainee but was previously denied the opportunity to fly before she joined Bezos on the July flight of New Shepard.
  • Blue Origin has billed New Shepard as a spacecraft that virtually anyone can fly on with only a few days of light training. Though the vehicle will put the passengers through intense G-forces as it blasts upward and returns back toward Earth, the ride won't be nearly as intense as orbital flights like the one that SpaceX recently operated for four space tourists, which requires far faster speeds and a nail-biting reentry process.

What will happen?

  • When most people think about spaceflight, they think about an astronaut circling the Earth, floating in space, for at least a few days. 
  • That is not what the New Shepard passengers will be doing. In fact, if all goes well it should look very similar to Bezos' flight back in July.
  • They'll be going up and coming right back down, and they'll be doing it in less time, about 10 minutes, than it takes most people to get to work.
  • Visually, Blue Origin's livestream will show the rocket and capsule sitting on a launch pad at Blue Origin's private facilities in rural Texas — near Van Horn, which is about 120 miles east of El Paso.
  • New Shepard's suborbital fights hit about three times the speed of sound — roughly 2,300 miles per hour — and fly directly upward until the rocket expends most of its fuel. The crew capsule will then separate from the rocket at the top of the trajectory and briefly continue upward before the capsule almost hovers at the top of its flight path, giving the passengers a few minutes of weightlessness. It works sort of like an extended version of the weightlessness you experience when you reach the peak of a roller coaster hill, just before gravity brings your cart — or, in this case, your space capsule — screaming back down toward the ground.

Read the full article here.

10:32 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

Blue Origin passengers ring a bell before boarding

As they walked to the Blue Origin spacecraft, each member of the crew rang a hanging silver bell.

The crew walked through a tunnel on the way to the launch capsule, which says above it "light this candle."

10:06 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

The crew is headed to the launch tower now 

The Blue Origin crew is now making their way to the launch pad.

A tweet from Blue Origin says, “We are go for #NS18 astronaut load.”

9:55 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

Weather for William Shatner's spaceflight is "very good," CNN meteorologist says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

While weather conditions delayed actor William Shatner's spaceflight by a day, today seems to be a good day to fly, according to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers says.

"Yesterday, the winds were gusting to 25 and 30 miles per hour. We haven't had a gust over 8 miles per hour in the past six hours," he said.

"Winds right now are nice and light. Temperatures are good. Sunshine everywhere," he added.

9:53 a.m. ET, October 13, 2021

Former Shatner costar: "This has been his number-one bucket list item"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

William Shatner is "thrilled" to travel to space, his friend and former "T.J. Hooker" costar Adrian Zmed said.

"I know that he is absolutely thrilled to be doing this at this point. I mean, 13 hours a day in a police car for five years, we get to talk a lot. And he reflected many times on his wonderment of space, and how incredible it would be to actually go there. I, of course, just joked with him saying, 'Certainly that's not possible.' And he said to me, he said, 'I don't know about that.' And I'll tell you, he was a visionary, because he saw it," Zmed said in a CNN interview.

"I think that this has been his number-one bucket list item, and in about an hour, it's going to happen. And I'm really happy for him," he said.

Zmed said that Shatner has "always been just bigger than life."

"Bill does everything with massive intensity, passion. He has a wild imagination. And he has stamina for everything," he said.

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