Going to space left William Shatner ‘crying’ with grief

This fall, he plans to publish a book, titled “Boldly Go,” which is billed as a sort of philosophical reflection on his life, career, and “the interconnectedness of all things,” according to publisher Simon and Schuster. He’s also the face of a new coding contest that will offer the winner a chance to travel more than 18 miles high in a spaceship-like capsule attached to a balloon. (Yes really.)

CNN Business sat down with the “Star Trek” legend this week in a high-profile interview. Here is a brief recap.

Shatner was a guest of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on the second crewed flight of New Shepard, the suborbital space tourism rocket developed by Bezos’ company Blue Origin. When he returned, Shatner was visibly moved. He described seeing the empty, black expanse of the cosmos as “seeing death”.

“There’s Mother Earth and comfort, and then there’s…death,” he said at the time.

After the flight, he couldn’t stop crying, he said in an interview with CNN Business this week.

“It took me hours to figure out what it was, why I was crying,” he said. “I realized I was grieving. I was mourning the destruction of the Earth.”

Shatner said he was deeply influenced by “Silent Spring,” the 1962 book on environmentalism by biologist Rachel Carson.

“It’s going to get worse!” Shatner spoke about the environmental crisis. “It’s like someone owes money on a mortgage, and they don’t have the payments and they’re like, ‘Well, let’s go to dinner and forget about it.'”

What he thinks of billionaires in space

Companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’ Blue Origin – run by two of the world’s richest men – are often the butt of criticism. Can open space exploration by a wealthy few ever bring about the kind of egalitarianism touted by “Star Trek”?

“It misses the whole idea here,” Shatner said. “The whole idea is to get people used to the space, like going to the French Riviera. It’s not a vanity. It’s a business.”

He also reiterated Bezos’ publicly stated goal: if we can make space travel cheap enough, we can move polluting industries to outer space, preserving Earth as a huge national park. (This idea also has its skeptics and critics.)

Why send a software developer into space?

One of Shatner’s latest gigs is as the spokesperson for a contest run by Rapyd, a digital payment platform developer. It’s called “Hack the Galaxy” and calls on developers to solve coding challenges every two weeks, and the winner can choose between a cash prize of $130,000 or the chance to join a 2026 flight the startup runs. Space Perspectives, which plans to transport customers about 100,000 feet high in a capsule attached to a balloon.

Shatner said he jumped on board with the idea because he wanted “problem solvers” to experience a transformative high-altitude ride, just like him.

“I want to obtain [these coders] interested in building the financial community, but then saying, ‘Why don’t you focus on carbon capture or, you know, one of the big issues? Hunger? Poverty?'” Shatner said. .

Shatner’s Dinner with Stephen Hawking

Shatner said he has a newfound fascination with string theory – a popular idea that attempts to explain quantum physics, or how subatomic particles behave, and how it fits into more easily observable scientific ideas. like gravity.

For the non-physicists among us, this is incredibly difficult to understand. Shatner said that when he traveled to the UK to interview Stephen Hawking, the famous cosmologist, for a documentary, he wished he had looked into the subject. But Hawking, who was confined to a wheelchair and used a computer to speak due to a degenerative disease, had to have all the questions prepared in advance.

“I never got to ask him that question” about string theory, Shatner recalls. “But he said when we made this arrangement, ‘I want to ask Shatner a question.’ I lean over, you know, we’re sitting side by side looking at the cameras…and he laboriously typed, ‘What’s your favorite episode?'”

Shatner, for the record, doesn’t have a favorite “Star Trek” episode and didn’t offer an answer. But Hawking invited him to dinner anyway.

” What are you doing ? At dinner ? With someone who can’t talk? Shatner burst out laughing. “But I had a great time with him.”

For the curious, Shatner also summarized his thoughts on string theory, which posits that everything in the universe is, at its most basic level, made up of vibrating strings: “I think we’re in vibration with the universe. . It’s a matter of us connecting.”

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