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At This Hour

Shatner and Crew Lift Off in Historic Space Trip. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired October 13, 2021 - 11:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touchdown. Stand by, touchdown.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the capsule touched down.

Welcome back, the newest astronauts, Audrey Powers, William Shatner, our customers, Glen de Vries and Chris Boshuizen. What a day for you. Welcome back. I cannot wait to talk to them, Becky (ph), and just get -- what -- the experience out there this morning, what a clean and beautiful flight from the rocket for our astronauts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What an absolutely stunning flight. And I also loved hearing that audio of them on their way back, about how this experience was for them. And I can't wait to hear their stories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You heard William Shatner say this is like nothing I've ever experienced before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who has traveled at warp speed and traveled the entire galactic universe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our team is preparing landing safety operations and recovery of our astronauts from the crew capsule. We'll be on the ground at the landing site to follow the action in just a bit, maybe even talk to the world's newest astronauts, some absolutely breathtaking stuff.

I'll note that you're going to see the recovery team show up very shortly. We actually send them out before the capsule has landed. By now, we're very, very good analyzing where the capsule is going to come down, where the winds are.

So we're going to see the recovery team come out there and, of course, they will also be joined by some of their friends and family to watch as they emerge from the capsule.

Let's look at our four astronauts there in the Texas desert after having gone up over the Karman line and back.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We're beginning with breaking news. Just a beautiful sight to see. "Star Trek" actor William Shatner making history as the oldest person ever to go to space.

Just over 10 minutes ago as we all watched it play out, the 90-year old and three crewmates blasted off aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket, which took billionaire Jeff Bezos into space just in July.

The rocket soared up to about three times the speed of sound, reached an altitude of more than 60 miles high, achieving a few beautiful yet brief minutes of weightlessness.

Then, as we all just saw, landing back to Earth once again. Shatner's flight is the sixth flight this year carrying civilians. There's much more to come as we've seen. Let me begin our coverage with CNN's Kristin Fisher. She's live at the launch site and has been covering all this in Texas.

We know, as we saw with the last flight, there's going to be videos coming out and we're going to see a lot more. But it looked flawless.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Blue Origin has to be very, very happy about this mission. It looked flawless. We'll certainly get to hear a bit more about that.

We should get some of that video later today of William Shatner and the rest of the crew, floating around during those precious four minutes of weightlessness. William Shatner may be the star of the show today.

But that booster return just gave him a run for his money -- not the capsule landing, I'm talking about the booster that propelled the capsule into space. If you've never seen one before -- and very few people have; up until a few years ago that was the stuff of science fiction -- it's truly incredible to watch this massive booster literally fall out of the sky.

Just when you think it's going to crash on the desert floor, it fires off its thrusters and gently brings itself down to a perfect landing after you hear a sonic boom. That was science fiction until just a few years ago.

Blue Origin, SpaceX made it possible. Now you have this other science fiction becoming reality, the original Captain Kirk officially becoming an astronaut -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Stick with me, Kristin. Let me bring in Miles O'Brien on this.

Miles, I will say, watching that booster, it really wobbles at first. It's unbelievable that it even corrects itself.

What are your thoughts in seeing this?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: It's scary to watch and cool, too. This is why they call it rocket science, right?


O'BRIEN: It's like balancing a broomstick with your finger, with a lot more physics involved.

What's so important about this is when you think about all the things we threw away on our way to space, huge chunks of the Apollo. The space shuttle aimed to be reusable but it was not reusable in a practical way. The solid rocket boosters would be fished out of the water.

The orbiter itself had those very fragile tiles on the surface, which required a ton of work. All of that added to the expense.

Imagine if every time we flew a 737 across the country, they threw away the airplane?

The likes of Bezos and Musk have created vehicles that are really reusable and that drives down the cost significantly. That's why those of us in space watching this all happen, this billionaire space race and the famous people going, are cheering it on because what it is doing is driving that very technology we're talking about.

BOLDUAN: You saw the ground crew, running around, getting thumbs up from all of them on board. Miles, you were talking about just how it's exciting to see, exhilarating to watch. We all -- we can all say that very honestly.

It's also exciting to see and just the progress with the technology and what this means, what this could mean. I'm excited to hear how they describe it. I think it was William Shatner's voice we heard, when he said unlike anything to describe. You're probably closest thing I can ask, what do you want to hear from them?

I can't wait to hear how they describe it.

O'BRIEN: It's interesting. It's such a tiny little bouche-amuse (sic), a tiny little taste of space.

The Enterprise is out there for five years, right?

So he was in space. So it was a tiny little taste.

At 90, would Bill Shatner like to go for more?

Maybe over at Elon Musk's shop on SpaceX. I want to be that 90-year old. Just that he could climb the steps, he gets a Vulcan salute.


BOLDUAN: The only thing I questioned is he's actually 90 years old.

O'BRIEN: Maybe not.


BOLDUAN: Bezos now has -- we now have these two -- I'll call them missions, these two missions with civilians on board.

Is it clear what was learned from the first to the second and what can be learned from this?

O'BRIEN: I think they've got a pretty robust system. They built a pretty safe -- there's a lot of forces at play and the plumbing has to work just right or you can have some real trouble. But you have a system there that, number one, it is only going to the very edge of space.

To get to orbit is about 15 or 16 times more energy has to be put into the rocket. So we're at a different order of magnitude. Having said that, it's got a robust system with a crew escape capability. The capsule can separate from the rocket itself when needed. And all of these things, everything they've built --


BOLDUAN: Miles, I'm going to jump in because I want to listen in. You see Jeff Bezos is there and you hear the cheers. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever you're ready. Just let me know.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me know when you're ready.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, thank you, that's right.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Again, thank you everybody for joining us live from West Texas and our launch site one. Our second human space flight crew has gone to space and back, up over the Karman line, just over 351,000 feet. We're awaiting Jeff Bezos, who is now opening the hatch.

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, BLUE ORIGIN: Hello, astronauts. Looking good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's Audrey Powers, a big hug from her sister.

Captain Kirk himself, the great William Shatner.

Our customer Chris Boshuizen, the first Australian citizen to go to space and back, and Glen de Vries.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some big hugs from their loved ones. WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR AND ASTRONAUT: In a way, it's indescribable.

BEZOS: That's what I thought. You work on it so hard and --


SHATNER: Not only is it different than what you thought --



SHATNER: -- that I never expected to have is the --


BEZOS: Come here. I want one.

I want to hear this. Here.

You want a little of this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The champagne showers have begun, smiles all around. William Shatner taking in the moment clearly.

SHATNER: Everybody in the world needs to be this -- everybody needs to see (INAUDIBLE). It was unbelievable, unbelievable. I mean, the little things. To see the blue color go right by and now you're staring into blackness. That's the thing, the covering of blue is -- this sheet, this blanket, this comforter, blue that we have around us, we say, oh, that's blue sky.


SHATNER: It's like you whip the sheet off of you when you're asleep and you're looking into blackness, into black ugliness. And you look down, there's the blue down there and the black up there and it's just -- there is Mother Earth and comfort. And there's -- is there death?

I don't know but is that the way death is?

Whoop, and it's gone. Jesus. It was so moving to me. This experience did something unbelievable. You see, yes, you know, the weightless -- my stomach went up. This is so weird but not as weird as the covering of blue.

This is what I've never experienced. Oh, it's one thing to say, oh, the sky and the planet (ph) and the fragile, it's (INAUDIBLE). But what isn't true, what is unknown (INAUDIBLE) is this pillow, there's this soft blue -- look at the beauty of that color and it's so thin.


SHATNER: And you're through it in an instant.

It's what a -- I'll think of it. Is it a mile, two miles?

BEZOS: It's maybe -- it depends how you measure it.

SHATNER: But you're going 2,000 miles an hour, so you're through 50 miles, whatever the mathematics are. It's a beep and a beep and suddenly you're through the blue and you're in the black.

It's mysterious and galaxies and things. But what you see is black and what you see down there is light. And that's the difference. And not to have this, you have done something.

I mean, whatever those other guys are doing, but what isn't -- I don't know about that. What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened. It's extraordinary, extraordinary.

I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don't want to lose it. It's so -- it's so much larger than me and life. And it hasn't got anything to do with the little green men and the blue orb. It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death of it. Oh, my God.

BEZOS: It's so beautiful.

SHATNER: Beautiful, yes.

BEZOS: I mean your words. It's just amazing.

SHATNER: I don't know. I can't even begin to express what I -- what I would love to do is to communicate as much as possible the jeopardy, the moment you see how -- the vulnerability of everything.

It's so small , this air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It's a sliver, it's immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe. It's negligible, this air. Mars doesn't have it. Nothing -- I mean, this -- and when you think of (INAUDIBLE) change, the oxygen, what is it, (INAUDIBLE) percent, that level that sustains our life..

It's so thin. To dirty it, I mean, that's another whole subject.

BEZOS: You shoot through it so fast.

SHATNER: So quickly.

BEZOS: And then just in blackness.

SHATNER: You're in death.

BEZOS: This is life.

SHATNER: This is life and that's death. In an instant you go, whoa, that's death. That's what I saw.

BEZOS: That's amazing. That's amazing. SHATNER: I'm overwhelmed. I had no idea. You know, we were talking

earlier, well, you know, it's going to be different -- and whatever that phrase you have, that you have a different view of things, it doesn't begin to explain, to describe what -- for me, I mean, everybody is going to -- but -- and this is now the commercial.

Everybody -- it would be so important for everybody to have that experience through one means or another. Maybe you could put it on 3D and wear the goggles to have that experience. I mean, that certainly is a technical possibility.

But what you need, also -- we're lying there in -- and I'm thinking there's one delay after another delay. We're lying there, I was thinking how do I feel?

I'm thinking, yes, I'm a little jittery. They moved the page. Oh, and there's something in the engine, they found an anomaly in the engine, we're going to hold a little longer. You're going to hold a little longer.

And I feel the stomach, the biome and such, I'm thinking, OK. I'm a little nervous here. Another delay. I'm a little more nervous.

By the way, the simulation is -- it's only a simulation. Everything else --

BEZOS: Doesn't capture it.

SHATNER: Doesn't capture the -- and besides which, bang, this thing hits. That wasn't anything like the simulator.


SHATNER: What's going to happen?

Am I going to be able to survive the G forces?

Am I going to survive it?

Then I think, good Lord, just getting up the bloody gantry was enough.

Oh, my God. What an experience.

BEZOS: It looked like you had a moment of camaraderie with your crewmates up there.

SHATNER: It's like being in battle really. And there is this bonding, being in battle. But you're also embattled being inside yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you again, everybody, for joining us live. Our second New Shepard astronaut crew has made it home. We just heard some wonderful words from William Shatner, Captain Kirk, who finally had the opportunity to go to space. He became --

BOLDUAN: Wow, hearing William Shatner himself kind of work through the experience he just had was an experience in and of itself. Miles, you were listening to this with me. He says, "I hope I never

recover from this."

He says it's the most profound experience he can imagine. He was so clearly emotional and moved and just -- he was experiencing everything and we were watching it right there with him.

O'BRIEN: It was poetry. It was the lyrics to his next spoken word song, I imagine. I've been saying for years -- and everybody says it's self-serving -- that we should send people other than scientists and engineers into space -- artists, writers, actors, journalists as well.


BOLDUAN: I was thinking the same thing, Miles. Exactly.

O'BRIEN: This is what has been missing, are people -- with few exceptions. Astronaut Mike Collins was a beautiful writer, the Apollo 11 astronaut.

Chris Hadfield -- there are a few. But that was just over the top and nothing short of poetry. The ever loquacious Bill Shatner, at first gobsmacked him without words and then, once he got started, it was actually beautiful and summed it up in a way that I've never heard.

BOLDUAN: The comforter of blue around us, there so many things we can go through with what William Shatner described.

But let's stay in this moment. They're being presented with their flight wings now. Let's listen in.

BEZOS: Bill, it's my real honor to pin this on you. I'm very excited about your ability to communicate this. It's so important for so many people.

Oops, this one bent.



BEZOS: We have a spare, don't worry.


SHATNER: That's all right, guys.

BEZOS: The hardest part of the mission.

Bill, you're amazing.

Audrey, you're so deserving. You worked so hard on this program. All your life you've been dreaming of this.

SHATNER: Isn't that true?

What a gift.

BEZOS: Sorry. These things are tricky. I have more sympathy for Jeff Ashby (ph) now. Poor guy. He had to do it in front of a big crowd. It's just that the Nomex is very tough.

SHATNER: Oh, that's true.

BEZOS: OK, guys. We have four astronauts before you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was absolutely amazing. As Jeff said, we've got four astronauts before you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you everybody for joining us today for Blue Origin's second human flight.

BOLDUAN: There you have it. There will be much more video to come. Let me bring in Kristin Fisher.

Do we have kind of the official stats now?

We've got the emotion and then the big numbers.

How did this all go down?

FISHER: I think it's safe to say that William Shatner experienced the overview effect, this experience that astronauts talk about when they see planet Earth for the first time and how deeply and profoundly it changes them.

Very clearly William Shatner experiencing that. That's what space travel is all about, giving folks like William Shatner and everyday folks walking on Earth with the chance to experience what William Shatner just did.

What he said right there is so profound. He said everybody in the world needs to see it. It was unbelievable. That is at the core of what a lot of these private space flight companies are trying to do, like Blue Origin, trying to get other people to experience this in the hope that, when they come back to planet Earth, they'll be able to do things in their lives to make the world a better place.

I have to go back through some of these incredible lines that William Shatner had.

He told Jeff Bezos, "You have given me the most profound experience. I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened, I hope I never recover from this. I don't want to lose it."

There are so many people who go into space who are skilled in so many different areas, they're brilliant scientists, mathematicians, engineers, test pilots, doctors. William Shatner was just able to put that experience into words that I don't think I've ever heard any astronaut quite capture that way.

I know there's going to be a big debate about, are these four crew members, are they now officially astronauts?

Well, they crossed the Karman line. You saw the company, Blue Origin, giving them their pins. The company certainly thinks they're astronauts.

William Shatner, during his interview with Erica Hill earlier this week, he said something profound.

"Maybe you don't call me an astronaut with a capital A."

But he believes he's an astronaut with a lower case A, kind of a nod to the fact that there are still professional astronauts and he was really just along for the ride. Wow. What a moment.

And what a neat experience that we got to watch that interaction between Jeff Bezos, who just got to launch his childhood hero into space, and William Shatner, thanking him for what he described as the most profound and unbelievable experience of his life.

That's really saying something for 90-year-old William Shatner, one of the most famous actors on the planet, has led one of the most interesting lives out of anybody out there, for him to say this had that impact on him, imagine what you or I might experience if we had the opportunity to go up one day -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: I would hope I would be even a fraction of as articulate and poetic as William Shatner has been in the last couple minutes. Let me bring in Nischelle Turner, dear friend and host.

I'm profoundly more interested in this extraordinary human being.

What do you think of this?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, you guys have been calling him as 90 years old. I think we see this morning he is 90 years young. This is art imitating life in the most beautiful way. The man is a wordsmith.

And he wrapped up this experience better than anyone could. On "Star Trek," Captain Kirk used to say, "Risk is our business." That has never been truer for William Shatner today. He released a special tweet when he was up in space.

He said, "I do not know what I may appear to the world but, to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the seashore."

He goes on for a little bit and he ends the tweet by saying, "The great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me with a rocket ship."

So he was thinking about this in the most poetic way before this mission even happened. And when he came down and to have the words he did was just really amazing. We heard him in the middle of the mission say he's never experienced anything like this before.

He said he doesn't want to ever recover from this. I think that he will never recover from this. And I think he's all the better for it.