William Shatner, the actor most known for his role as Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek franchise, has become the oldest human to visit space.
Shatner, a 90-year-old Emmy Award-winner, boarded a Blue Origin rocket as one of four crew members aboard the NS-18 mission. NS-18 took off from Launch Site One in West Texas and returned just over 10 minutes later as the capsule descended by parachute and concluded a successful suborbital mission.
“That was unlike anything they described,” Shatner said.
“To see the blue color [of the sky] go rip by and now you’re staring into blackness, that’s the thing. The covering of blue, this sheet, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around us, we think, ‘Oh, that’s blue sky,’ and then suddenly you shoot through it all as if you rip off a sheet while you’re asleep, and you’re looking into blackness,”
Shatner was moved to tears, adding “Everybody in the world needs to do this… Everybody in the world needs to see.”
This is Blue Origin’s 2nd successful crewed mission, as it continues to help pioneer the space tourism industry. Blue Origin is planning one additional crewed flight in 2021 and has several more crewed flights planned for 2022.
However, as some progress, others fall behind.
Virgin Galactic has pushed back the start of commercial flights… again. After telling analysts in August that they were targeting “late Q3” for their first private astronaut flight, Virgin disappointed investors with another unexpected delay, sending that first flight into the 4th quarter of 2022.
The delay is attributed to a program to update Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane that has taken a month longer than expected. It’s clear Virgin Galactic investors are not pleased. After news of the delay, shares of Virgin Galactic fell 20% in premarket trading the following morning.
“Our decisions are driven by detailed and thorough analysis, and we fly based on the most accurate and comprehensive data available,” said Virgin Galactic CEO, Michael Colglazier, in a fairly colorless statement.
And while private companies continue to race each other in the space tourism industry, Russia looks like it’s blurring the lines between state-funded space exploration and space tourism, bringing the Russian space agency’s focus into question.
A film director and actress have just completed a 2-week mission to the International Space Station in pursuit of shooting the first feature film in space.
About 35-40 minutes of screen time of a movie titled The Challengewas shot on the ISS, and three Russian cosmonauts participated in scenes as well. The urgency to beat a Hollywood project involving Tom Cruise, NASA, and SpaceX played a role in Roscosmos’ prioritizing the film.
So, was this a historic accomplishment? Was it a distraction? It was certainly a fiasco.
The Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft launched from Kazakhstan en route to the ISS, but not without issue.
In what Roscosmos explained as “ratty data,” unexpected communication issues caused the spacecraft to have to dock manually with the ISS from about 75 meters out as Russian mission control guided the cosmonauts from the ground.
This is the second time Roscosmos missions have led to issues on the ISS in recent months. To make things worse, Russian Prime minister Vladimir Putin has decided to cut funding to the country’s space program over the next three years after Roscosmos failed to meet 30 of its 83 goals for 2020. The announcement came just one week after Russia banned journalists and publications who aren’t run by the state from covering Roscosmos. Anyone who continues to do so will be deemed a “foreign agent.”
It’s safe to say the future of the Russian space program is not looking too bright. And all this is happening as the fate and future of the ISS hang in the balance.
Needless to say, things are really heating up in space, and we’ll keep you updated on it every cosmic step of the way.
NASA & Houston Cinema Arts Society Present, Cinespace. A film competition inspired by and using NASA imagery, enabling curiosity and fostering creative relationships at the intersection of art and science....
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