Neil DeGrasse Tyson Weighs In On William Shatner Going Into Space

It was just about a month ago that fans of Star Trek found out that the series’ OG Captain Kirk, actor William Shatner, was set to be the oldest person launched into space, at 90 years old. While Shatner had made his desire to head above the clouds known for many years, he did also admit to some trepidation leading up to the flight. Luckily, for all involved, the October 13 space trip went off without a hitch, and Shatner and everyone else aboard returned to Earth safely. There were, however, a lot of questions beforehand about whether or not his trip was really a good idea, and Neil deGrasse Tyson weighed in on Shatner going into space.

As you probably know, Neil deGrasse Tyson is a respected and very well-known astrophysicist who’s become famous for being able to take our questions about things like the universe, space, and space travel, and break down the answers so that we can all understand these things better. Before William Shatner took his history-making flight, deGrasse Tyson was asked by TMZ if there should have been special training for the actor, and the scientist said:

[The rockets are] designed to not be that oppressive to you. It’s not like the old days...The reason why they went through all that training, was because the capsule might have landed in the middle of nowhere, and they might have had to go on survival for days before anyone found them. That is not happening today. We know where you are at all times. We can get to your location, basically instantly. So, all of that training is no longer necessary. Plus, he’s about to be weightless. If anything’s going to kill you, it’s gravity [laughs]! There are extra G forces that you feel going up, but those are tamped down. They’re about what you’d experience at an amusement park.

While we all know that something like space flight carries an inherent risk, from what deGrasse Tyson said in his interview, it definitely sounds like that risk is a lot smaller than what it used to be, which is likely one of the reasons that those behind Blue Origin, the company which launched Shatner and his cohorts into space on their tourism rocket, didn’t seem to have any qualms about the nonagenarian fulfilling his dream to go where very few of us have gone before.

It probably also helps that these tourism trips are just that; little jaunts to suborbital space which last only a few minutes (Shatner’s entire trip reportedly only took about 10 minutes), where non-astronauts can get the opportunity of a lifetime. They don’t have controls to check on, experiments to do, or repairs to make. Aside from the anxiety most people would experience from being blasted into space, it’s now a short, relatively low-pressure adventure. Neil deGrasse Tyson offered further advice, and noted:

I would say, just walk on the ship and enjoy the ride. Look out the window; look at space. It’s not the final frontier, it’s the next frontier. He’s going to feel that. In retrospect, William Shatner should have been the first person we ever sent into space, and I’m glad we finally got around to it.

By all accounts, despite some shade from his former co-star George Takei, William Shatner was able to do just that, and made some wonderful history for all of us, and memories for himself in the process.

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Yennefer's apprentice, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.