William Shatner talks difference between space simulators and reality, the physical toll flight took at age 90

William Shatner described being particularly struck by how different the real experience of going into space was from the simulations he ran with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. 

The 90-year-old actor joined Blue Origin Vice President of New Shepard Mission and Flight Operations Audrey Powers as well as Dr. Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries as they blasted off on the aerospace company’s latest suborbital spaceflight on Wednesday. The successful mission makes Shatner the oldest person to travel to space. 

After sharing some profound words about the experience as soon as he touched down in Texas, the former “Star Trek” actor spoke on the “Today” show Thursday where he explained how the simulations for the flight didn’t necessarily prepare him for the immensely moving and physically taxing experience. 

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William Shatner smiles during a media availability at the Blue Origin spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.  The “Star Trek” actor and three fellow passengers hurtled to an altitude of 66.5 miles (107 kilometers) over the West Texas desert in the fully automated capsule, then safely parachuted back to Earth in a flight that lasted just over 10 minutes. 
(AP Photo/LM Otero)

“We had a simulator, they simulate what they say you’re going to feel and it doesn’t come anywhere near it,” he explained to the hosts. “[They say] ‘Here you’re going to be in weightlessness and you’ve got to grab a hold of something, don’t push too hard with your hands, just use your fingertips because you’ll bounce off the ceiling…’ You can talk about weightlessness all you want but the feeling of weightlessness, the actual feeling of weightlessness is indescribable!”

Shatner continued by noting it was one of the moments he felt his age compared to the other three younger people he was on the flight with.

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“First of all, your body doesn’t have any pressure, so suddenly your body is expanding,” he explained. “Secondly, you’re floating and I don’t want to turn somersaults, I don’t want to throw Skittles, I want to look out the window!”

He noted during a later appearance on the show that he was unsure if his body could “endure” some of the G-force that came with the flight. 

“At 5 Gs, you’re pressed, the skin is going back and you’re thinking ‘Can I endure this? When will this end?’” he explained. “But it’s over in a moment because you hit this edge of air that’s around us. This 50-mile skin of air that causes the blue sky.”

Earlier in the interview, Shatner explained that he was humbled by the experience, particularly in terms of his physical abilities at age 90. 

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“Another factor of this whole thing is, I keep saying ‘Oh, yeah, no, I’m not 90. I ride horses!’” he said. “The whole physical experience of mounting that gantry, of getting into that chair, of being weightless and having 5 Gs and suddenly, as I’m coming down, I’m thinking ‘You know something, I’m 90 years old!’”

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Shatner concluded by echoing some of the thoughts he shared when he initially touched back down on Wednesday, calling the entire experience “indescribable.”




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