This week, one of the entertainment world’s most famous space explorers actually traveled into space. William Shatner, who played Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, became the oldest person to venture to the final frontier aboard a Blue Origin rocket.
On October 13, Shatner and a crew of three others traveled in a hydrogen-fueled rocket 65.8 miles up into space, where they enjoyed a few minutes of gravity-free wonder before returning to Earth via a parachute-assisted landing.
“It was so moving to me,” Shatner said. “This experience is something unbelievable.”
Although this is Shatner’s first official trip beyond the atmosphere, his character has been inspiring people from space for decades.
Star Trek’s extraterrestrial themes of conflict and the thrill of the unknown, as well as racial and gender equality, draw close parallels to social issues on Earth. The show advocates not only for optimism but also for finding clever peaceful solutions to complex problems.
Whoopi Goldberg has discussed her excitement at watching Star Trek as a child and seeing Lieutenant Uhura, a Black female crew member. Although the show was not without its representation shortcomings, its themes and wide-reaching fan base marked a significant shift in the culture of television.
The New Yorker writer Neima Jahromi writes, “Watching Picard and his crew explore the galaxy has always been as much about finding differences in the realms beyond our solar system as about finding the possibility of difference inside ourselves.”
Shatner is already a symbol of adventure and exploration, but his trip into space also ignites a passion for science in a younger generation. Media studies professor Paul Levinson told ABC News, “Space flights like this one with William Shatner definitely brings some wonder, not just to the Baby Boomers who grew up watching Kirk.”
In a TODAY interview before the flight, Shatner expressed his anticipated sense of awe: “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 — that’s really what I’m looking for.”
Stay tuned for our Optimist View this weekend with more on the enduring optimism of Star Trek.