William Shatner boldly went where a bunch of people had already gone before earlier this week when he was launched into space in a Blue Origin rocket. While a number of folks, especially Star Trek fans, celebrated the move which marked the oldest person to ever head into orbit, not everyone was as enamored with the spectacle and achievement. Prince William did an interview with BBC in which he had some disagreements with how companies like Blue Origin were operating and what he thought they should instead be doing with their vast resources. In his mind, it didn’t include chucking Captain Kirk up into orbit.
During the interview, Prince William called out Blue Origin and other private space companies for having the wrong global mission. He said that these companies ought to be, “trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live”. While he didn’t mention William Shatner by name specifically, it was rather obvious that William was speaking directly about this space flight considering he did the interview within 24 hours of the Shatner launch. While it’s noble (pun) for Prince William to want to see resources utilized for issues here on Earth, the two projects are far from mutually exclusive. Putting William Shatner, or others, into space doesn’t always come at the expense of problems here on Earth. By contrast, Elon Musk’s Tesla has worked solely on reducing the need for fossil fuel in cars while he also works on sending people to space.
For his part, William Shatner did respond to the Prince William comments when the former spoke with Entertainment Tonight on Thursday. Shatner said “He’s a lovely, gentle, educated man, but he’s got the wrong idea…The point is these are the baby steps to show people [that] it’s very practical. You can send somebody like me up into space.” Shatner went on to suggest and point out that the idea with these initial space flights was to bring attention to the possibilities in play for the Earth when space became more accessible to individuals and companies alike. The initiative is to not only provide things like space tourism, but to also more certain industries off the planet at some point, thereby “saving” the Earth.
When William Shatner flew into space on Wednesday, he became the oldest person to ever take the journey. At 90 years young, the iconic actor breaking the record by eight years. Wally Funk, at 82, had just set the record on.a SpaceX flight. Before that, John Glenn held the previous record when he made the trip at 77. Shatner’s ride on the Blue Origin rocket lasted about 10 minutes and took him into a suborbital launch.
Was the William Shatner space flight a publicity stunt? Of course. No one is denying that. It was meant to draw Star Trek levels of attention to the flight and get a couple of news cycles worth of stories about it. Mission accomplished there. But it also doesn’t mean that the entire initiative around going to space is one big media spectacle either. There can be multiple truths here around the core operating missions of companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX. And, if I’m being honest, Prince William who neither seems to innovate or invent at all, probably doesn’t need to be lobbing in criticisms from the royal sidelines.