At 90 years old, Shatner will be the oldest person to fly to space.
“I’ve heard about space for a long time now,” Shatner said in a news release. “I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle.”
Shatner is best known for his run as Capt. Kirk on the original “Star Trek” series, and he later played Sgt. T.J. Hooker in the eponymous series. Nowadays, he’s become something of a living meme, due in part to his musical career in which he delivers theatrical spoken-word versions of popular songs, including Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
He also has an abiding interest in space travel. In 2011, he recorded a wake-up call for astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
“These have been the voyages of the space shuttle Discovery,” Shatner said in the prerecorded call that riffed on the “Star Trek” opening theme. “Her 30-year mission: to seek out new science, to build new outposts, to bring nations together in the final frontier, to boldly go and do what no spacecraft has done before.”
The company’s statement did not address how far into space Shatner would venture or for how long the mission would last.
Shatner will be following in the footsteps of Bezos, a die-hard Trekkie who — clad in a cowboy hat that delighted Internet jokesters — flew past the edge of space on July 20 with his brother Mark; Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer, and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old student from the Netherlands. (Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
As The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport and Dalvin Brown reported at the time, the “launch set a record for both the oldest and youngest person to fly to space and came nine days after Richard Branson flew on a similar suborbital trajectory. The back-to-back launches amounted to yet another sign of space exploration’s modern renaissance, a movement that is being fueled not by nations but by a surging commercial space industry backed by billionaires.”
After Monday’s announcement, Twitter users buzzed with excitement — and jokes — about the upcoming flight. Shatner himself got in on the fun, tweeting, “So now I can say something. Yes, it’s true; I’m going to be a ‘rocket man!’”
Shatner “is going to space? My man! I guess this means I have to become a marine biologist,” tweeted Jason Alexander, referring to his “Seinfeld” character.
Some noted an oddly prescient sketch during last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” premiere, in which Owen Wilson played a space-bound Bezos in a “Star Trek” parody. “The fact that SNL aired a Star Trek parody with Blue Origin the day before William Shatner was announced to be flying on Blue Origin is proof that the universe is beyond parody at this point,” tweeted one user.
The announcement comes days after Alexandra Abrams, the former head of Blue Origin employee communications, published an essay on the whistleblowing website Lioness accusing that the company fosters a sexist work environment.
“We are a group of 21 former and current employees of Blue Origin,” Abrams essay begins, before claiming the company’s “culture sits on a foundation that ignores the plight of our planet, turns a blind eye to sexism, is not sufficiently attuned to safety concerns, and silences those who seek to correct wrongs.”
The essay describes, for example, one former executive who “frequently treated women in a condescending and demeaning manner, calling them ‘baby girl,’ ‘baby doll’ or 'sweetheart’ and inquiring about their dating lives.”
One former staffer confirmed the allegations to The Post. Blue Origin denied the claims, saying in a statement that it “has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous avenues for employees, including a 24/7 anonymous hotline, and will promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct.”