William Shatner describes space travel in new book “Boldly Go”

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For decades, astronauts have described their trips to space as “breathtaking” and humiliating, a reminder of the earth’s fragility and humanity’s need to serve as stewards of our home planet.

Actor William Shatner, who joined a suborbital space tourism flight last year, experienced the same phenomenon, but he had a very clear observation when he turned his gaze from Earth to the black expanse of the cosmos: “All I saw was death,” he written in a new book.

Shatner’s biography, called “Boldly Go,” which he co-wrote with the TV and film writer Joshua Brandonis filled with similarly somber anecdotes about Shatner’s experience blasting through Earth’s atmosphere aboard a real-life rocket after his memorable turn as a starship captain on the 1960s TV show “Star Trek” and several franchises. movie in the following decades.

“I saw a cold, dark, black void. It was unlike anything black you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. I turned back towards the light of home. I could see the curvature of the earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky. That was life. Care, sustain, life. Mother Nature. Gaia. And I was about to leave her,” reads an excerpt from “Boldly Go,” first released by Variety.

“Everything I had believed was wrong,” it reads. “Everything I expected to see was wrong.”

While he had expected to be amazed by the sight of the cosmos, seen without the filter of Earth’s atmosphere, he was instead overwhelmed by the idea that humans are slowly destroying our home planet. He felt one of the strongest feelings of grief he had ever encountered, Shatner wrote.

Shatner’s book was released on October 4 by the publisher Simon & Schuster. CNN interviewed him in June about the book, his trip to space with the Jeff Bezos-backed space tourism company Blue Origin and what’s next for the 91-year-old. A transcript of the interview, edited for length and clarity, is below.

CNN: We all saw how emotional you were when you stepped off the Blue Origin spacecraft after landing. How did that experience change you?

William Shatner: 55 or 60 years ago I read a book called “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. She wrote about the environmental problems that are still happening today. I have been a verbal ecologist ever since. I have been aware of the changing Earth and my concern for all of us.

It’s like someone owes money on a mortgage and they don’t have the payments. And they think, “Oh, well, let’s go to dinner and not think about it.”

But it is so ubiquitous! The possibilities of an apocalypse are so real. It is difficult to convince people – and especially certain political people – that this is no longer just around the corner. It’s in the house.

When I got into the room I wanted to go to the window to see what it was that was out there. I looked at the darkness of the room. There were no blinding lights. It was just a strange blackness. I thought I saw death.

And then I looked back at Earth. Given my background and having read a lot of things about the evolution of the Earth over 5 billion years and how all the beauty of nature has evolved, I thought about how we kills everything.

I felt this overwhelming sadness for the Earth.

I didn’t realize it until I came down. When I stepped out of the spacecraft, I started to cry. I didn’t know why. It took me hours to understand why I was crying. I realized that I was in mourning for the Earth.

I never want to forget, nor have I forgotten, that momentous event.

CNN: What else have you realized about the experience in the months since you took your space flight?

Shatner: I had an awareness that humans may be the only living species on this planet that is aware of the vastness and majesty of the universe.

Consider what we have discovered in just the last 100 years given the 200,000 years that humans have existed. We have discovered how mountains came to be, the Big Bang. And I kept thinking about how humanity is rapidly evolving into a knowing being while at the same time killing itself.

It’s a race.

CNN: Space tourism companies like Blue Origin have also received a lot of criticism from people who see these endeavors as more of a vanity project for wealthy individuals rather than something truly transformative. How do you respond to that criticism?

Shatner: The whole idea here is to get people used to going to space as if it’s like going to the Riviera. It’s not just a vanity – it’s a business.

But what Jeff Bezos wants to do, and what is slowly growing because of our knowledge of space, is to get the polluting industries into orbit and get the earth back to what it was. (Editor’s note: Bezos has routinely talked about moving heavy industry into orbit to help preserve Earth, and that idea also has skeptics and critics.)

CNN: What do you think of the ‘astronaut’ title? Are people paying for short, suborbital flights for space astronauts?

Shatner: I call them half astronauts.

CNN: What are we going to do in space next?

Shatner: The ability to go to Mars lurks in the background, which I think should take a backseat to going to the moon, setting up the moon as a base and mining everything the moon has to offer, instead of extract it here.

These are just my own opinions. What-his-name disagrees. He wants to go to Mars. (Editor’s note: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk founded his company with the goal of establishing a colony on Mars.)

Star Trek actor William Shatner speaks to the news media after his flight with three others in a capsule powered by Blue Origin's New Shepard reusable rocket engine at a landing pad near Van Horn, Texas, on October 13, 2021.

CNN: Are you eager to return to space?

Shatner: If you had a great love affair, could you go back? Or would that demean it?

CNN: You mentioned that you got a chance to speak with the famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking before he died. How was that experience?

Shatner: I was never able to ask him about string theory, which I wanted to. We had to give him all the questions beforehand. And he had said when we made the deal, ‘I want to ask Shatner a question.’

Finally I lean in, you know, we’re sitting side by side looking at the cameras.

So he painstakingly wrote, ‘What’s your favorite Star Trek episode?’ which is the question every fan asks and I started laughing. He did not have the ability to laugh (due to his degenerative disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS).

But his laughter showed in the blush on his face and he turned so red. Then he invited me to dinner. I had a beautiful moment with him.

CNN: What are you doing next?

Shatner: I should take this opportunity to say that I have an album out there called “Bill.” And I kept making songs with my collaborators. The song “So Fragile, So Blue,” is very much about my experience in space. I recently performed with (musician) Ben Folds at the Kennedy Center. It could be a TV show or an album.

I also have a really wonderful show called “The UnXplained” on the History Channel.

And then I have my book called “Boldly Go” coming out in the fall.

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