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For decades, astronauts have described their journeys into space as “awe-inspiring” and humbling, a reminder of 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 had a very different observation when he returned his gaze from Earth to the black expanse of the cosmos: “All I saw was death “, said. wrote in a new book.
Shatner’s biography, “Boldly Go,” which he co-wrote with film and television writer Joshua Brandon, is filled with equally dark anecdotes about Shatner’s experience blasting off into Earth’s atmosphere aboard a real-life rocket after his memorable stage playing a spaceship captain. in the 1960s TV show “Star Trek” and several franchise films in the following decades.
“I saw a cold, dark and black void. It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, enveloping. I turned to the light of the house. I could see the curvature of the Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nourish, maintain, live. Mother Earth Gaia. And I was leaving her,” reads an excerpt from “Boldly Go,” first published by Variety.
“Everything I thought was wrong,” he says. “Everything I expected to see was wrong.”
Although he expected to be amazed by the vision 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 pain he had ever encountered, Shatner wrote.
Shatner’s book was published on October 4 by Simon & Schuster. CNN interviewed him in June about the book, his trip to space with Jeff Bezos-backed space tourism company Blue Origin, and what’s next for the 91-year-old. Below is a transcript of the interview, edited for length and clarity.
CNN: We all saw how emotional you were when you left the Blue Origin spacecraft after landing. How did that experience change you?
William Shatner: Fifty-five or 60 years ago I read a book called “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. She wrote about environmental problems that are still happening today. I have been a verbal environmentalist ever since. I was aware of the changing Earth and my apprehension for all of us.
It’s like someone owing money on a mortgage and not making the payments. And they think, “Oh, well, let’s have 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 politicians – that this is no longer at our door. He is at home.
When I got to the space, I wanted to reach the window to see what was out there. I looked into the blackness of space. There were no dazzling lights. It was just palpable blackness. I thought I saw death.
And then I looked at the Earth. Considering my background and reading a lot about the evolution of the Earth over 5 billion years and how all the beauty of nature has evolved, I thought about how we are killing everything.
I felt this overwhelming sadness for the Earth.
I didn’t realize it until I got off. When I left the ship, I started to cry. I didn’t know why. It took me hours to understand why she was crying. I realized that I felt sorry for the Earth.
I never want to forget, nor do I forget, the momentousness of that occasion.
CNN: What else did you learn about the experience in the months you’ve been on your space flight?
Shatner: I became aware that human beings may be the only living species on this planet that is aware of the enormity and majesty of the universe.
Think about what we’ve discovered in just the last 100 years considering the 200,000 years that humans have existed. We discovered how the mountains were formed, the Big Bang. And I kept thinking about how humanity is rapidly evolving into a knowing creature 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 those efforts as more of a vanity project for wealthy people rather than something that can be 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 were 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 building up because of our familiarity with space is to put those polluting industries into orbit and get the earth back to the way it was. (Editor’s note: Bezos has often talked about moving heavy industry into orbit to help preserve Earth, and that idea also has its skeptics and critics.)
CNN: What do you think of the title “astronaut.” Are people who pay for short, suborbital flights space astronauts?
Shatner: I call them half astronauts.
CNN: What should we be doing in space next?
Shatner: The ability to go to Mars that’s lurking in the background, which I think should take a backseat to going to the moon, setting the moon as a base and exploiting what the moon has to offer, rather than mining here.
Those are just my own opinions. What is it called I would disagree. 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.)
CNN: Are you looking forward to getting back into space?
Shatner: If you had a great love relationship, could you go back? Or would that degrade him?
CNN: You mentioned that you had the opportunity to speak with the famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking before he died. How was that experience?
Shatner: I never got to ask him about String Theory, which I wanted to. We had to ask him all the questions in advance. And I had said when we did the arrangement, “I want to ask Shatner a question.”
Finally, I’m leaning, you know, we’re sitting next to each other looking at the cameras.
Then he laboriously wrote, ‘What’s your favorite episode of Star Trek?’ which is the question that all fans ask, and I started laughing. He didn’t have the ability to laugh (because of his degenerative disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS).
But her laughter showed in the red of her face and she turned so red. Then he invited me to dinner. I had a beautiful time with him.
CNN: What do you do next?
Shatner: I should take this opportunity to say that I have an album called “Bill”. And I continued to make songs with my collaborators. The song “So Fragile, So Blue,” is a lot about my experience in space. I recently performed with (musician) Ben Folds at the Kennedy Center. It can 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.