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William Shatner and three others are set to launch 62 miles above Earth on Blue Origin’s New Shepard

William Shatner, 90, is one-step closer to earning the the title of oldest person in space – he and three others are set to launch 62 miles above Earth’s surface Wednesday morning.

The crew, which also includes Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers, are launching aboard Blue Origin’s 60-foot-tall New Shepard rocket at 10am ET from the company’s Launch Site One in Van Horn, Texas. 

The team were shuttled to the launch pad in a Rivian truck, which was driving by Blue Origin boss Jeff Bezos. 

 The giant rocket rolled out to the launch pad in the early morning hours and was erected on the launch pad where it sits waiting patiently to shoot off into space. 

It will only take three minutes for NS18 to hit the 62-mile mark- passing the ‘Karman line’ that is the edge of space- after New Shepard leaves the launch pad. 

The crew started their day early with a trip to the training center before the sun rose, allowing them to go over all the details of today’s flight.

All four members received a special challenge coin shortly after arriving at the training center, which represents belonging and the achievement of something great and is only awarded to astronauts who passed training and are set to fly on a spacecraft. 

This is the second crewed flight conducted by the Jeff Bezos-owned company – the first took off on July 20 and Bezos himself was along for the ride.

However, Wednesday’s mission gained just as much attention as Shatner, who is famed for playing Captain James T. Kirk in the hit show ‘Star Trek,’ made a dream come true for millions who were inspired by the sci-fi television show.

 

William Shatner (center), 90, is one-step close to earning the the title of oldest person in space – he and three others are set to launch 62 miles above Earth’s surface in less than two hours

The crew, which also includes Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers, are launching aboard Blue Origin’s 60-foot-tall New Shepard rocket at 10am ET from the company's Launch Site One  in Van Horn, Texas

The crew, which also includes Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers, are launching aboard Blue Origin’s 60-foot-tall New Shepard rocket at 10am ET from the company’s Launch Site One  in Van Horn, Texas

It will only take three minutes for the team to hit the 62-mile mark- passing the 'Karman line' that is the edge of space- after New Shepard leaves the launch pad. Pictured is New Shepard on the launch pad ahead of the launch

The giant rocket rolled out to the launch pad in the early morning hours and was erected on the launch pad where it sits waiting patiently to shoot off into space

The team were shuttled to the launch pad in a Rivian truck

The team were shuttled to the launch pad in a Rivian truck

The ruck is being driving by Blue Origin boss Jeff Bezos

The ruck is being driving by Blue Origin boss Jeff Bezos

All four members received a special challenge coin shortly after arriving at the training center, which represents belonging and the achievement of something great and is only awarded to astronauts who passed training and are set to fly on a spacecraft

All four members received a special challenge coin shortly after arriving at the training center, which represents belonging and the achievement of something great and is only awarded to astronauts who passed training and are set to fly on a spacecraft

The rocket booster segment will separate from the crew capsule two minutes and 45 seconds into the flight, to touch down on a pad around two miles from the launch site some seven minutes after launch. 

Following the sub-orbital flight, the capsule will parachute to a landing in the Texas desert, some 10 to 12 minutes after they first blasted off. 

‘Having played the role of Captain Kirk everybody assigns the knowledge that a futuristic astronaut would have, but I’ve always been consumed with curiosity and it is the adventure I feel so good doing,’ Shatner said in a video shared by Blue Origin Tuesday.

The three other individuals strapped inside the capsule also have a strong connection with space.

This is the second crewed flight conducted by the Jeff Bezos-owned company – the first took off on July 20 and Bezos himself was along for the ride 

Pictured is the crew on their last day of training Tuesday. They are now gearing up to climb the launch tower and strap in the Blue Origin capsule to launch into space

Pictured is the crew on their last day of training Tuesday. They are now gearing up to climb the launch tower and strap in the Blue Origin capsule to launch into space

MEET THE CREW 

William Shatner

The 90-year-old Canadian actor shot to fame in the 1960s when he took on the role of James T Kirk in Star Trek the original series. 

He will become the oldest person ever to travel to space when he launches. 

Chris Boshuizen 

Boshuizen is the co-founder of Planet Labs and partner at venture capital firm DCVC, and is a paying passenger.

He has a net worth of $30 million, and was Space Mission Architect at NASA’s Ames Research Center until 2012.

Glen de Vries

de Vries, who co-founded Medidata Solutions in 1999, said the spot on the New Shepard is a ‘dream come true.’

‘This is how innovation happens,’ he said in an interview ahead of launch.

Audrey Powers 

Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, she spent years watching missions soar into space. 

She joined Blue Origin in 2013 and oversees New Shepard flight operations, vehicle maintenance, and launch, landing and ground support infrastructure.

Powers, who is Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, has spent years watching missions soar into space and can now check a spaceflight off her bucket list. 

‘I think I reached a certain age when I had given up on the idea that I would go to space,’ she said in a video clip.

‘In my role in mission flight operations, we were waiting to hear who the fourth astronaut was.’

Powers received a phone call from Michael Edmonds, a colleague, and told her: ‘On behalf of Jeff and the senior leadership we’d like you to represent team Blue and fly as the fourth astronaut.’

Blue Origin has not confirmed if Powers and Shatner paid for a seat, or the experience was gifted, but it is sure the other two passengers did.

Boshuizen, who has an estimated net worth approaching $30 million, was also the Space Mission Architect at NASA’s Ames Research Center between 2008 and 2012.

During this time he invented the Phonesat, which is a satellite built from a smartphone.

I’ve worked in space industry my entire life and I am excited the door is finally opening,’ Boshuizen said during a recent interview with Good Morning America (GMA).

‘I think we will look back at this day 50 years from now and go this was the year the human race started going to space.’

de Vries, co-founder of Medidata, said the spot on the New Shepard is a ‘dream come true.’

‘This is how innovation happens,’ he told GMA’s host TJ Holmes.

‘I lived in it healthcare and life sciences when you think about an industry being created and the opportunity for us to fuel that industry, as Chris was saying this is the beginning of a new time for space.

‘We are on the beginning of a curve that is just going to blast off.’ 

Cookies in the shape of the logos of Blue Origin (bottom) and "Star Trek's" Star Fleet Command are set on a table for the crew before the New Shepard NS-18 launches at 10am ET

Cookies in the shape of the logos of Blue Origin (bottom) and “Star Trek’s” Star Fleet Command are set on a table for the crew before the New Shepard NS-18 launches at 10am ET

Pictured is the patch all four crew members are wearing for the mission

Pictured is the patch all four crew members are wearing for the mission

Bezos took to Instagram to announce the paper toys would be going up on the next rocket launch, adding he 'made these tricorders and communicator to play Star Trek with my friends.

His mother (pictured) saved them for 48 years and dug them out a week before the launch, prompting Bezos to ask Shatner to take them with him into space, adding 'please don't judge me for the artwork. Thank you, Bill!'.

Bezos took to Instagram to announce the paper toys would be going up on the next rocket launch, adding he ‘made these tricorders and communicator to play Star Trek with my friends. His mother saved them for 48 years and dug them out a week before the launch, prompting Bezos to ask Shatner to take them with him into space, adding ‘please don’t judge me for the artwork. Thank you, Bill!’

WHAT IS THE BLUE ORIGIN ASTRONAUT EXPERIENCE?

The four ‘astronauts’ will pile inside a truck to the launch tower 45 minutes before lift-off.

The crew will then climb the tower, ring a bell that hangs at one end of the crossing and strap into the fully autonomous 60-foot-tall New Shepard rocket.

They will blast off from a base in the west Texas town of Van Horn on a journey to the edge of space.

The new Shepard will fire its engines and lift for a few minutes, with the capsule separating from the rocket, sending the crew into a weightless freefall.

The rocket will return to the ground, landing on the launchpad in Van Horne to be used again.

After three minutes of weightlessness, the crew capsule will gradually return to Earth, slowed down by parachutes and landing on cushioned air bags.

Under Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) guidelines, they won’t technically be astronauts, but the word isn’t protected, so can call themselves Blue Origin astronauts, or tourist astronauts. 

Bezos is sending several pieces of Star Trek artwork and ‘home-made toys’, that he created when he was nine, into space with actor William Shatner on the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket.

Bezos took to Instagram to announce the paper toys would be going up on the next rocket launch, adding he ‘made these tricorders and communicator to play Star Trek with my friends.’

His mother saved them for 48 years and dug them out a week before the launch, prompting Bezos to ask Shatner to take them with him into space, adding ‘please don’t judge me for the artwork. Thank you, Bill!’

One Tuesday, lead flight director, Nick Patrick, said that the crew completed their first day of training on Sunday. They also spent yesterday doing launch training.

‘The training itself was designed to do three things for our astronauts,’ Patrick said during a video interview.

‘The first thing is it’s designed to train them on the safety systems that we have onboard the crew capsule and the expected responses from the crew if we were to have an emergency.’

The second is to prepare the crew for the unexpected aspects of spaceflight such as strange noises, bumps and accelerations, Patrick explained.

The third part of training teaches the crew how to behave in zero-gravity inside the cabin without colliding with their flight mates, he continued.

‘I am very confident that we will learn tomorrow that this training has gone well for these four astronauts and we will be ready to launch them,’ said Patrick.

The four individuals are scheduled to pile inside a truck to the launch tower 45 minutes before lift-off.

The crew will then climb the tower, ring a bell that hangs at one end of the crossing and strap into the fully autonomous 60-foot-tall New Shepard rocket.

The will blast off from a base in the west Texas town of Van Horn on a journey to the edge of space.

‘I’m going to see the vastness of space and the extraordinary miracle of our Earth and how fragile it is compared to the forces at work in the universe,’ Shatner told NBC’s ‘Today’ program.

The crew is launching from Blue Origin's Launch Site One in Van Horn, Texas

The crew is launching from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in Van Horn, Texas

Shatner shot to fame when he took on the role of James T Kirk in the original Star Trek series in 1966

Shatner shot to fame when he took on the role of James T Kirk in the original Star Trek series in 1966

Shatner shot to fame when he took on the role of James T Kirk in the original Star Trek series in 1966.

This was four years after Alan Shephard – who the rocket he’ll travel in is named after – became the first American in space, and three years before Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon.

‘I plan to be looking out the window with my nose pressed against the window. The only thing I don’t want to see is a little gremlin looking back at me,’ Shatner said referring to his role on Twilight Zone’s ‘Nightmare at 20,000 feet.’ 

THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin's space capsule

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule

Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.

Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20, but Branson beat him to the punch.

The British billionaire became Virgin Galactic Astronaut 001 when he made it to space on a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos – on July 11 in a test flight.

Bezos travelled to space on July 20 with his younger brother Mark, Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old physics student whose dad purchased his ticket, and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.

Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit – but has purchased a ticket with Virgin Galactic for a suborbital flight.

SpaceX became the first of the ‘space tourism’ operators to send a fully civilian crew into orbit, with the Inspiration4 mission funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman. 

His flight was on a Dragon capsule and SpaceX rocket built by space-obsessed billionaire, Elon Musk and took off for the three day orbital trip on September 16 – going higher than the International Space Station. 

SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.  

On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached. 

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

SpaceX has also taken two groups of astronauts to the |International Space Station, with crew from NASA, ESA and JAXA, the Japanese space agency. 

SpaceX has been sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network, which is already in beta and providing fast internet to rural areas. 

Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane. 

The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7). 

More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips. The final tickets are expected to cost $350,000.

Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX. 

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.

The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.

It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.

Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.

The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.

Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.

The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.    

At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff. 

Blue Origin are working on New Glenn, the next generation heavy lift rocket, that will compete with the SpaceX Falcon 9. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk