William Shatner Had An Unexpected Reaction After Going To Space

William Shatner experienced deep feelings of sadness when he gazed into outer space.

By Douglas Helm | Published

In October of last year, William Shatner went into space aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle, making Shatner the oldest living person to travel to space at the age of 90. While the trip obviously was awe-inspiring for the former Starfleet captain, it also filled with other unexpected emotions — grief and sadness. Although Shatner’s initial thoughts on his trip were interrupted by a champagne-spraying Bezos, he was able to fully expound on his experience in his book Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder.

Variety published an excerpt from the book, but Willliam Shatner’s moment of sadness can be summed up from this quote: “It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness.” Shatner further explained, “My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.”

What William Shatner experienced is what is known as ‘the overview effect.’ The overview effect is a cognitive shift that some astronauts experience when viewing Earth from space. The experience can be transformative and cause the individual to feel overwhelming emotions and a deep connection to the Earth and the people on it.

william shatner

William Shatner was able to beautifully sum up his space-faring experience, coming away with a sense of how fragile the Earth is, especially compared with the vastness of space. As someone who served for years in the role of a space-faring hero named Captain James T. Kirk, it felt especially appropriate that Shatner was able to boldly go where very few others have gone. Of course, as commercial space travel becomes more prevalent, perhaps more of us will be able to have a similar experience in the near future.

While William Shatner got a special invite to go check out our Earth from outside the atmosphere, the actual cost of a visit like this is prohibitively expensive for most of us. In September 2021, SpaceX launched the Inspiration4 mission which became the first human spaceflight to orbit Earth with only private citizens on board. In other words, we’re not too far off from space tourism becoming a reality — though it will likely only be affordable for the wealthy for the foreseeable future.

In fact, if you want to be like William Shatner yourself and you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spare, you can buy yourself some tickets to go up on a 90-minute spaceflight with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. With companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic all working toward space tourism, it’s only a matter of time before low-orbit becomes the next hot vacation destination. Of course, there are no guarantees that it won’t cause you to feel overwhelmingly sad and existential, but that just seems like part of the risk.

If you want to hear more about William Shatner’s journey and his other life adventures his book, which was co-authored by Josh Brandon, Boldy Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder is now available for purchase. Shatner has lived a pretty interesting life and with 90 years behind him, there is probably plenty of stories for him to tell. If you’re a Star Trek fan, it sounds like this book will definitely be a must-read.