‘It felt like a funeral’: William Shatner reflects on the journey to space | William Shatner

William Shatner expected he would achieve the “ultimate catharsis” after his historic flight into space. Instead, the journey left him filled with sadness, an “overwhelming sadness” and a newfound appreciation for Earth’s beauty, the Star Trek actor has said.

“My trip to space was supposed to be a party; instead it felt like a funeral,” an excerpt from his book Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder, published by Varietysounds.

“I love the mystery of the universe. I love all the questions that have come to us through thousands of years of exploration and hypothesis…but when I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to see…all all I saw was death,” Shatner wrote.

Pictures of the actor pressed up against the window of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket capsules were live-streamed back to Earth last October as the four-person crew approached the boundary of space, known as the Kármán line, and continued on.

But for Shatner, recalling the view almost a year later, he describes “a cold, dark, black void … deep, enveloping, all-encompassing”.

“Everything I thought was wrong. Everything I expected to see was wrong,” he wrote. “I had thought that going into space would be the ultimate catharsis of the connection I had been looking for between all living things—that being up there would be the next beautiful step to understanding the harmony of the universe.”

William Shatner aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket after launch near Van Horn, Texas, on October 13, 2021.
William Shatner aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket after launch near Van Horn, Texas, on October 13, 2021. Photo: AP

The Canadian, who captivated the world in his role as Captain James Kirk of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, broke down in tears upon landing and described having “the profound experience I can imagine”. “I hope I never get over this,” he said at the time. “I’m so full of emotion about what just happened. It is extraordinary, extraordinary.”

But a year after returning to Earth, Shatner wrote in the excerpt: “I discovered that beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving it behind deepened my connection to our little planet .”

“It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious cold of space and the warm care of the Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness.

“Every day we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of the Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna … things that took 5 billion years to develop, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of humanity It filled me with fear.

“My trip to space was supposed to be a party; instead it felt like a funeral.”

He added in a recent interview with Washington Post: “Everyone else was shaking bottles of champagne and it was quite a sense of achievement. And I didn’t feel like that at all. I didn’t celebrate. I shook, I don’t know, my fists at the gods.”

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