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  • Annika Santhanam

“Beam me up, Scotty!” Becomes Reality for Captain Kirk!

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!” These opening lines from the famous 1966-1969 science fiction television series, Star Trek, is still etched in many minds today. The TV series was a huge hit, covering the exploration of new frontiers by the USS Enterprise starship and its crew. Their adventures introduced us to the concept of futuristic travel and the idea of space travel, made famous by Captain Kirk’s famous command to his chief engineer: “Beam me up, Scotty!” The Star Trek series opened the doors for many more series and movies on science fiction, especially on space travel and adventures.

While Star Trek is an on-screen, fictional show, it’s portrayal of going to space became a reality for Captain Kirk on October 13, 2021!

On October 13th, William Shatner, the actor who originated the role of Captain Kirk, and three other passengers – Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin worker; Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Earth observation company Planet; and Glen de Vries, member of software company Dassault Systémes - boarded a capsule the New Shepard, named after Alan Shepard, the first American man in space. The capsule is designed to be fully automatic, so there wasn’t even a pilot on board during the flight! The flight lasted 10 minutes, during which the capsule traveled to the outer atmosphere and landed back down in the desert in Texas. Once they landed back in Texas, Shatner stated “What you have given me is the most profound experience, I am so filled with emotion, just extraordinary.” The four passengers were launched into an altitude that allowed them to experience a moment of weightlessness at about 60 miles above Earth’s surface. The passengers viewed both the upper atmosphere and the environment of outer space. The spaceflight was monitored and conducted by Blue Origin, a space firm founded by Jeff Bezos, the former CEO of Amazon.

Why Was This Flight Important?

This flight marked the second human spaceflight ever conducted by Blue Origin, marking a new era of commercial space travel that could eventually extend to the common civilian. Additionally, this flight officially made William Shatner the oldest person to go to space at age 90, which was a huge milestone as there are certain health and safety requirements to travel to space. When passengers are launched into space, they experience a force of 5Gs, which is essentially five times the force of gravity that we usually experience while standing on Earth. Since this is a great amount of pressure, it’s important for all travelers to be in proper physical condition to endure this pressure. Luckily, tests had already been run on elderly people to discover whether or not those of old age could travel into space. These tests determined that elderly people can tolerate up to 6Gs, which proved that Shatner’s age wouldn’t be a concern for his trip.

How does the New Shepard Capsule Work?

The New Shepard rocket is composed of several parts. The first is the capsule, which is where the passengers sit during launch. The capsule can hold up to six people and is placed on top of the main body of the rocket, which is 60 ft long. The rocket contains air brakes that are enabled on descent in order to reduce the speed, while the engine is enabled both in takeoff and landing in order to have a controlled landing. Finally, the rocket also has landing gear that is deployed when the rocket touches down, and with all the other components, creates a reusable launch system that can be used in future projects.

A Note About Blue Origin

Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, aims to take space travel to the next level, using reusable launch systems to make space travel easier and more frequent. With its first human spaceflight on July 20th and its second occurring this month, Blue Origin is on the way to produce future satellite launches and planetary expeditions, even working on a capsule to land on the moon. Blue Origin has been funded by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to design preliminary outlines for human-landing systems for the Artemis 3 mission, which will bring astronauts back to the moon for the first time in 50 years.

As time goes on, we hope space travel like this becomes everyday travel for society, and as scientists and companies start sending further flights in and out of the planet, we may soon find another planet for humanity as well! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more articles!



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