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Actor William Shatner, who joined a suborbital space tourism flight last year, encountered the same phenomenon, but had a very special note when he turned his gaze from Earth to the black expanse of the universe: “All I’ve seen is death,” he writes in a new book.
Shatner’s biography, called “Boldly Go”, which he co-wrote with the television and film writer Joshua BrandonFilled with similarly grim tales of Shatner’s experience blasting through Earth’s atmosphere aboard a real rocket after his unforgettable stint as the captain of a spaceship on the 1960s TV show Star Trek, and many more franchises. Movies in the following decades.
“I saw a cold, dark, black void. It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on the ground. It was deep, closed, and all-encompassing. I returned toward the light of the house. I could see the curvature of the earth, the beige of the desert, the whiteness of the clouds, the blue of the sky. It was Life. Nurture, Sustainability, and Life. Mother Earth. Jaya. I Was Leaving Her,” reads an excerpt from “Boldly Go” first published by diverse.
The message reads: “Everything I thought was wrong.” “Everything I expected to see was wrong.”
While he expected to be in awe of seeing the universe, seen without the filter of Earth’s atmosphere, he was overwhelmed by the idea that humans are slowly destroying our planet. Shatner wrote that he felt one of the strongest feelings of grief he had ever experienced.
Shatner’s book was released on October 4 by the publishing house Simon & Schuster. CNN interviewed him in June about the book, his trip into space with Jeff Bezos-backed space tourism company Blue Origin, and what next for the 91-year-old. Below is the text of the interview, edited for length and clarity.
CNN: We all saw how emotional you were when you got off the Blue Origin spacecraft after landing. How has this experience changed you?
William Shatner: Fifty-five or 60 years ago I read a book called Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I wrote about environmental issues that still occur today. I’ve been a verbal ecologist ever since. You have been aware of the changing earth and my fears for all of us.
It’s like someone owes money on a mortgage, and they don’t have the payments. And they’re thinking, “Oh, well, let’s go to dinner and not think about it.”
But it is everywhere! The possibilities of the end of the world are very real. It’s hard to convince people – especially some politicians – that this is not on our doorstep anymore. he is at home.
When I got to space, I wanted to get to the window to see what was there. I looked into the blackness of space. There were no flashing lights. It was just a palpable darkening. I thought I saw death.
Then I looked at the ground. Looking at my background and after reading a lot of things 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 kill everything.
I felt this overwhelming sadness on the ground.
I didn’t realize it until I got off. When I got out of the spacecraft, I started crying. I didn’t know why. It took me hours to understand why I was crying. I realized that I was in grief on the ground.
I do not want to forget nor forget the importance of that occasion.
CNN: What else did you realize about the experience in the months since your journey into space?
Shatner: I had the awareness that humans might be the only species alive on this planet who are aware of the immensity and grandeur of the universe.
Think about what we’ve discovered in the last 100 years just by looking at 200,000 years of human existence. We figured out how mountains were formed, the Big Bang. And I kept thinking about how humanity is rapidly evolving into a knowledgeable creature while killing itself.
It’s a race.
CNN: Space tourism companies like Blue Origin have also received a lot of criticism from people who view these efforts as a vanity project for wealthy individuals rather than something that could be truly transformative. How do you respond to this criticism?
Shatner: The whole idea here is to get people into the habit of going to space, as if it was going to the Riviera. It’s not just vanity – it’s a business.
But what Jeff Bezos wants to do and what is slowly accumulating because of our knowledge of space is to take those polluting industries into orbit and return the Earth to what it was. (Editor’s note: Bezos has routinely talked about moving heavy industry into orbit to help preserve Earth, and that idea has her, too. Skeptics and critics.)
CNN: What do you think of the nickname “astronaut”. Are the people paying for the short, sub-orbital flights for astronauts?
Shatner: I call them half astronauts.
CNN: What should we do in space next?
Shatner: The ability to go to Mars lurks in the background, which I think should take a backseat to go to the Moon, prepare the Moon as a base and mine for all that the Moon has to offer, rather than mining here.
These are just my own opinions. What is his name will not agree. 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 excited to go back to space?
Shatner: If you had a great love affair, would you go back? Or does that degrade it?
CNN: You mentioned that you had a chance to speak with the famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking before he passed away. How was the experience?
Shatner: I was never able to ask him about string theory, which I wanted to. We had to ask him all the questions beforehand. And he said when we arranged, “I want to ask Shatner a question.”
Finally, I’m leaning in, you know, we’re sitting side by side looking at the cameras.
So he wrote diligently, “What’s your favorite Star Trek episode?” It is a question every fan asks and I started laughing. He never had the ability to laugh (due to his degenerative disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS).
But his laughter showed up as his face turned red and turned extremely red. Then he invited me to dinner. I had a nice moment with him.
CNN: What are you going to do next?
Shatner: I must take the opportunity to say that I have an album titled “law Project. I continued to produce songs with my collaborators. The song “So Fragile, So Blue” is about my experience in space. I recently Performed with (musician) Ben Folds at the Kennedy Center. It could be a TV show or an album.
I also have a really cool show called “The UnXplained” on the History Channel.
And then I have my book, called Go Bold, coming out in the fall.
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