William Shatner Says Going To Space Filled Him With Sadness: "All I Saw Was Death"

The Captain Kirk actor said going to space "felt like a funeral."


TV and movie star William Shatner, who famously starred as Captain Kirk on Star Trek, has reflected on his journey to space, saying the experience filled him with "overwhelming sadness."

Shatner flew on Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space shuttle in October 2021 at the age of 90, making him the oldest person to go to space. Whereas some people who travel to space are inspired in a positive way by their journey, Shatner said going to space "felt like a funeral" that filled him with dread.

"I love the mystery of the universe. I love all the questions that have come to us over thousands of years of exploration and hypotheses. Stars exploding years ago, their light traveling to us years later; black holes absorbing energy; satellites showing us entire galaxies in areas thought to be devoid of matter entirely… all of that has thrilled me for years… but when I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold . . . all I saw was death," Shatner says in an excerpt from his new book, Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder, shared with Variety.

Shatner said he observed a "cold, dark, black emptiness," the likes of which people on Earth cannot see or feel. The actor experienced what is known as the Overview Effect, a term used to describe a mental shift that astronauts experience when they look back upon Earth.

"I had thought that going into space would be the ultimate catharsis of that connection I had been looking for between all living things--that being up there would be the next beautiful step to understanding the harmony of the universe," Shatner said. "In the film Contact, when Jodie Foster's character goes to space and looks out into the heavens, she lets out an astonished whisper, 'They should've sent a poet.' I had a different experience, because I discovered that the beauty isn't out there, it's down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound."

Shatner said being in space was "among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered." He said he experience "overwhelming sadness" looking back at the Earth knowing that plant and animal species are dying off due to the effect of humankind.

"It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral," he said.

Head to Variety to read Shatner's full comments on traveling to space.

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