The real significance of sending William Shatner into space is the hope that he will be able to see for himself how humanity’s future might play out.
The real significance of sending WILLIAM SHATNER into space is that this will be the first time in history that the actor has been on a spacecraft. Read more in detail here: when is william shatner going to space.
It all began in the summer of 1983, when SALLY RIDE, the first female astronaut, flew around the world on the space shuttle Challenger. It came to an end on January 26, 1986, when civilian instructor CHRISTA McAULIFFE and six other crew members on board the same spacecraft died when it detonated and disintegrated only 73 seconds after taking off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
What happened in the end? The dream of sending a poet to the moon.
In the early 1980s, writer JAMES MICHENER remarked, “We need somebody other than MIT scientists to tell us what it’s like up there.” Michener, a space enthusiast, was a member of a special NASA task group at the time. After Sally Ride reignited public interest in NASA’s multibillion-dollar space program, the task group released a report in 1983 recommending that professional communicators, such as authors and educators, be sent on future space flights. “It is desired for NASA to send observers aboard the shuttle for the aim of contributing to the public’s knowledge of space flight,” according to the study.
So started the hunt for the ideal candidate among millions of people in the United States. “We’re searching for someone who can make an expressive addition to the literature,” a NASA spokesperson stated. a radio or newspaper reporter, an artist, a songwriter, or even a poet.”
I recall discovering at the time (when I was just beginning college) that singer/songwriter JOHN DENVER was vying for a spot on this show. I envisioned the guy who created Looking for Space, one of my all-time favorite songs, really going to space and then returning to share his experience with the world via music and lyrics. It might have been fantastic since the vast majority of people living in the 1980s (almost all) would never have had the opportunity to go into space.
And as beautiful as NEIL ARMSTRONG’s (“One tiny stride for (a) man, one big leap for humanity…”) and BUZZ ALDRIN’s (“Magnificent desolation…”) words on the moon’s surface in 1969 were, they weren’t educated to be communicators. They were a mix of military personnel, pilots, engineers, and scientists. Their education and skill sets never included motivating people via words or generating visceral emotions and sentiments. Writers and artists know how to do it, but they weren’t the ones who were responsible for the planet’s demise.
Christa McAuliffe is the governor of Virginia.
The decision was taken in 1984 to launch the program by sending a teacher into space. Thousands of applications were narrowed down to 114 semifinalists from all fifty states, and then to ten finalists—six women and four men—with Christa McAuliffe of Concord, New Hampshire, being named the winner.
In the year after the teacher, phase two of this civilian-in-space mission would have sent a journalist into orbit. WALTER CRRONKITE (who was 69 years old at the time), WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR., GERALDO RIVERA, TOM WOLFE (author of the highly renowned book The Right Stuff), and NORMAN MAILER were among the more than 1,700 candidates considered. In the third phase, an artist would be launched.
Then there was the Challenger tragedy.
Despite the fact that the civilian astronaut task group met until late April 1986, the writing was on the wall. For the average population, going into space was too risky. Even Tom Wolfe, who had been considered for phase two, questioned if spaceflight should “…be placed back in the hands of people whose career consists of hanging their skins, very voluntarily, out over the gaping crimson maw?” soon after the disaster.
Others, on the other hand, were less ready to concede defeat. “Maybe I’ll figure out a means to get there first through the private sector…in which case I’ll wave,” William F. Buckley replied to NASA after getting his rejection letter.
It’s almost prophetic.
Granted, it would take another three and a half decades for Buckley’s words to finally give him the last laugh (though he died in 2008), but by 2021, there will have been SIX private sector space missions, including JEFF BEZOS’ Blue Origins flights, ELON MUSK’s SpaceX Dragon orbits (the highest manned mission since STS-125 Atlantis serviced the Hubble telescope in 1998), and ELON MUSK’s SpaceX Dragon orbit
Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos
Some may joke that these millionaires are in a space race to see who has the largest, uh, ego. It’s self-evident that the Blue Origin launch vehicle resembles a massive phallus. And you may question whether these millionaires’ money would be better spent helping the world’s impoverished and hungry. While Elon Musk has been chastised for his lack of philanthropy, Jeff Bezos is among the world’s top 50 charity contributors, having spent $10 billion to establish the Bezos Earth Fund to combat climate change and donating $100 million to Feeding America, which feeds more than 200 food banks.
And now we come to WILLIAM SHATNER…
Whatever you think of Shatner’s ego, overacting, and notorious renditions of Rocket Man, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and whatever else this was, it’s all true. Yes, he may not be the Nobel laureate in poetry that was envisioned in the 1980s…or the Pulitzer journalist or brilliant musician who could fire our very souls with their eloquence and knowledge. But don’t dismiss William Shatner’s importance.
Sure, you may conceive of him as a character actor who starred in a science fiction program in the 1960s, basically performing a job for a salary, and then got fortunate and starred in what would become a famous movie series. However, doing so diminishes the numerous genuine accomplishments of this guy, both inside the Star Trek universe and beyond.
Captain James T. Kirk, a 1960s-era “true American hero” leading a worldwide (and interplanetary) crew on a mission of exploration and discovery, was played by William Shatner. While Spock and McCoy encouraged many young viewers to become scientists, Scotty inspired future engineers, and Uhura and Sulu inspired numerous women and ethnic minorities in this nation and across the globe to value themselves and their talents, Kirk instilled kindness and bravery in us all.
Kirk was guided by a moral compass. Even if it meant violating a few rules, he always did it for the right reasons: fairness, freedom, and justice, for the sake of the many…and sometimes for the good of the one. He was a self-assured leader and a devoted friend. Captain Kirk could tell right from wrong, even when others couldn’t. And when he made a mistake, he learnt from it and wasn’t hesitant to acknowledge and own it.
Captain Kirk has motivated me to try to be a nice and moral person who always does the right thing.
Shatner, on the other hand, was inspiring for different reasons. He never succumbed and never gave up. (Wait, it was probably TIM ALLEN from Galaxy Quest.) Actually, what I mean is that William Shatner was never a fan of typecasting or anonymity. Shatner renewed his star power in the 1980s, leading the cast of T. J. Hooker and followed it up with Rescue 911, after a dismal career in the 1970s after the termination of Star Trek. He’d go on to appear in seven Lead Trek feature films, writing and directing the fifth (oops! ), have a recurring part on the popular comedy Third Rock from the Sun, and create and star in his own television show, TekWar, based on a collection of books he’d written (along with uncredited science fiction author RON GOULART). Shatner continued to act, write books (yes, some people think he hired other ghost writers), perform in plays, speak at many conventions, host Saturday Night Live, and, of course, convert his spokesperson role for Priceline.com advertising into a fortune of high-flying Internet stock options!
“Boston Legal” starred William Shatner and James Spader.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Shatner was continually reinventing himself, and by the 2000s, he was in his 70s, an age when many actors (and people in general) consider retirement. Shatner, on the other hand, isn’t one of them! At the age of 73, Shatner received his first Emmy Award for playing Denny Crane on the last season of The Practice in 2004. The following year, he won his second Emmy (along with a Golden Globe) for portraying the same role on the brand new sequel TV series Boston Legal, in which he appeared for five seasons and 101 episodes (receiving another four Emmy nominations). He also featured in many films around this period, including Miss Congeniality (1 and 2), Dodgeball, and Over the Hedge. Is it time to move on? Hardly! He hadn’t even reached the age of 80!!!
In 2010-2011, Shatner had a one-season leading role on the TV comedy $#*! My Dad Says. He was also the host of the Biography Channel’s Shatner’s Raw Nerve and the Discovery Channel’s Weird or What? Later same year, Shatner created, directed, and acted in The Captains, a documentary in which he interviewed all of the other actors who had played the main roles in Star Trek series. He’d subsequently do the same for Chaos on the Bridge, a Star Trek documentary on the making of ST:TNG.
At the age of 81, Shatner created and performed in Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It, a one-man autobiographical play (which I attended during its three-week run at L.A.’s Music Box Theater, and it was fantastic). The show went on tour across the United States, including a Broadway engagement. (A friend of mine performed a one-woman performance a few years ago, and she said it was grueling and took a lot of effort, reflection, and confidence to pull off.) She wasn’t even touring at the time, and she was only in her 40s!)
More TV and film appearances followed in the 2010s, as well as the reality TV program Better Late Than Never, which followed Shatner and three other elderly celebrities (HENRY WINKLER, TERRY BRADSHAW, and GEROGE FOREMAN) as they journeyed across Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia. Shatner was 85 years old at the time. As if that wasn’t enough, he also cofounded Shatner Singularity, a comic-book business that published the award-winning graphic novel Stan Lee’s ‘God Woke’ by STAN LEE and FABIAN NICIEZA.
In 2019, Shatner performed the title tune from his FIFTH studio album, Why Not Me, live at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN with Jeff Cook. Bill, a new musical CD has just been released. Did I mention he’s 90 years old?
Oh, and Shatner has been raising, riding, and exhibiting American Saddlebreds and Quarter Horses on his 360-acre farm outside Versailles, Kentucky, all the while. Captain Kirk’s horse in Star Trek Generations was one of William Shatner’s own mares!
Yes, some individuals may see William Shatner as conceited, egotistical, larger-than-life, or even self-parodying at times. And they may question whether he was the greatest option to take up to space (for free, since Shatner’s trip was paid for) simply so Jeff Bezos could boast to Elon Musk and Richard Branson that he was the one who brought Captain Kirk into orbit.
They couldn’t be more incorrect, in my opinion!
Sure, I’m a Trekkie who grew up idolizing Captain Kirk, and I’m not oblivious to the reality that William Shatner (and don’t we all?) has faults. But he’s also one of the world’s closest things to a Renaissance man: acting, writing, directing, producing, (sorta) singing, putting himself out there six ways to Sunday, and amusing and inspiring the world for well over half a century… and it’s still going!
So, yeah, I believe that he is the guy we want to go into space and then return to tell us all about it. And Shatner didn’t let anybody down. Not to take anything away from the personalities and perspectives of the other seven Blue Origin crew members who went into space this month, but Shatner had a presence—a quiet grandeur, if you will—and also a very genuine humility. Listen to what he said as he got to the conclusion of the video…
Yes, Shatner was still attempting to comprehend this life-changing event that just around 600 individuals in history had ever had. Rather than avoid addressing his maelstrom of emotions, Shatner (who has never had a problem with public speaking!) collected himself and attempted to put his many kaleidoscope ideas into words for others to absorb. He embraced Jeff Bezos, cried, and even considered suicide at one point. In many ways, his overwhelming response seemed more genuine than that of all the other astronauts I’ve seen interviewed after their missions…excited yet calm and composed. Up there, Shatner was the “everyman,” responding like you or I would.
And it is for this reason, at this critical juncture in human history, that space will be made available not only to billionaires and lottery winners, but also to a broad range of people, including, hopefully, those who can communicate the depth and intensity of their own insights to the rest of humanity.
Now that manned (and womanned) spaceflight is being democratized, poets, authors, artists, and musicians will follow William Shatner into space. Shatner, on the other hand, was one of the first artists to go on the trip and return to offer what were really deep, introspective, and inspirational remarks. Others may be able to explain the experience in more complex and maybe even more powerful and touching ways, but William Shatner was a great pioneer and early ambassador to space…as he has always been.
Shatner appeared on The TODAY Show this morning, having better prepared his views, and was even referred to as a poet by one of the presenters…
William Shatner, may you rest in peace. You were deserving of this recognition.
The blue origin william shatner is a documentary that explores the real significance of sending William Shatner into space.
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