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What a blast: The rush of amateur astronauts
by AFP Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Oct 13, 2021

Prince William tells space tourists: fix Earth instead
London (AFP) Oct 14, 2021 - Britain's Prince William has launched an attack on space tourism, urging more attention on problems closer to home ahead of the COP26 climate summit.

The comments by Queen Elizabeth II's grandson were airing in a BBC interview later Thursday, a day after "Star Trek" star William Shatner became a real space traveller on Blue Origin's second crewed mission.

The mission replayed the company's maiden human flight in July, which included its founder Jeff Bezos of Amazon and was seen as a breakthrough for the emerging space tourism sector.

But Prince William said: "We need some of the world's greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live."

Virgin Galactic, which offers a similar experience of a few minutes' weightlessness and a view of the Earth's curvature from the cosmos, launched its founder Richard Branson in July, a few days before Bezos.

William was speaking ahead of the inaugural Earthshot Prize awards ceremony on Sunday, his initiative to honour those working on environmental solutions.

Looking ahead to the COP26 summit in Glasgow, which begins on October 31, he warned world leaders against "clever speak, clever words, but not enough action".

- 'Ahead of the curve' -

"It would be an absolute disaster if (son) George is sat here talking to you... in like 30 years' time, still saying the same thing, because by then we will be too late."

William's father Prince Charles, a lifelong environmentalist, has also spoken out on the need for action from the leaders rather than words in the buildup to the UN climate summit.

"He's had a really rough ride on that, and I think you know he's been proven to being well ahead of the curve, well beyond his time in warning about some of these dangers," William said.

"But it shouldn't be that there's a third generation now coming along having to ramp it up even more."

Queen Elizabeth, Charles and William are all due to attend events at the two-week summit.

The gathering will try to persuade major developing economies to do more to cut their carbon emissions, and get the rich world to cough up billions more to help poorer countries adapt to climate change.

"I want the things that I've enjoyed -- the outdoor life, nature, the environment -- I want that to be there for my children, and not just my children but everyone else's children," William said.

"If we're not careful we're robbing from our children's future through what we do now. And I think that's not fair."

As veteran actor William Shatner -- Captain Kirk of "Star Trek" fame -- becomes the latest celebrity to go into space on Wednesday, we look at the recent rush of amateur astronauts.

- Beam me up, Bezos -

Shatner went where no 90-year-old has gone before aboard Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rocket.

The Canadian became the oldest person to go into space on the flight, beating pioneering female pilot Wally Funk, 82, who also flew with Bezos in July.

Shatner experienced a few minutes of weightlessness 60 miles (100 kilometres) from Earth, before returning in the reuseable rocket.

Bezos and his brother Mark were also on Blue Origin's maiden mission in July.

- Russian first -

Last week, Russian actress Yulia Peresild blasted off to the International Space Station with a film director to try to pip the United States in making the first feature film in orbit.

They want to best "Mission Impossible" star Tom Cruise who announced his own movie project with NASA and Elon Musk's SpaceX last year.

They hope to wrap their story about a female surgeon who is dispatched to save a cosmonaut by the time they touch down on Sunday.

- Three-day trip -

SpaceX sent US billionaire Jared Isaacman and three of his guests into orbit for three days last month. It was the first time Musk's outfit blasted non-professionals into space.

- Space Station holiday -

Axiom Space are sending three businessmen to the International Space Station for a 10-day stay in January in the first of three trips aboard SpaceX rockets. Musk is also handling an orbital voyage organised by Space Adventures for four paying clients next year.

- Fly me to the Moon -

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is due to take a trip around the Moon, possibly in 2023, aboard another SpaceX rocket in a mission called dearMoon. He hopes to take eight amateurs with him on the first civilian lunar mission and has already invited "La La Land" and "First Man" film director Damien Chazelle.

Chazelle says he will have to ask his wife.

- Virgin troubles -

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson took part in a test flight of its rocket-powered spaceplane in July. But it has since been grounded over a "mishap" and the company that made the early running in space tourism hopes to resume flights next year.

Blue Origin launches William Shatner, TV's Captain Kirk, into space and back
Washington DC (UPI) Oct 13, 2021 - Star Trek actor William Shatner went boldly into space Wednesday morning and returned safely with three crew members aboard a Blue Origin capsule launched from West Texas.

Shatner, 90, becomes the oldest person ever to reach space. The New Shepard rocket that carried the crew lifted off into a mostly sunny sky at 10:50 a.m. EDT from the company's Launch Site One about 160 miles east of El Paso.

The capsule touched down 11 minutes later after reaching space and descending back to the Texas dessert.

"That was unlike anything you described, unlike anything I've experienced," Shatner was heard saying on a live broadcast during descent.

He appeared overcome with emotion after the flight as he thanked Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, who pinned astronaut wings on the four crew members. Shatner said viewing Earth's atmosphere made him feel it was fragile -- a "sliver" of precious air.

"Everyone needs to see ... the blue down there, and the black up there. It was so moving to me," Shatner said.

"What you have given me is the most profound experience," he told Bezos. "I'm so emotional about what just happened."

Shatner, who portrayed Captain James. T. Kirk in the 1960s television series, said in a Blue Origin video that he's aware of the impact his spaceflight will have.

"It looks like there's a great deal of curiosity about this fictional character, Captain Kirk, going into space. So, let's go along with it. And, enjoy the ride!" Shatner said.

Shatner was an invited guest of Blue Origin. He traveled with two businessmen who are paying customers and a company executive, Audrey Powers, the vice president of mission and flight operations.

The passengers were Chris Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer and co-founder of San Francisco-based satellite company Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, a French software firm executive and co-founder of New York clinical trials technology firm Medidata.

The mission was titled NS-18 for the 18th flight of a New Shepard rocket. It was only the second crewed mission for Blue Origin, after Bezos flew July 20 with three crew members.

Blue Origin delayed the launch due to winds at the launch site Tuesday. Flight director Nick Patrick said in a video release that the crew spent the day training.

The capsule passed the Karman line, about 62 miles high -- an international definition of space.

The crew spent about three minutes in weightlessness before strapping in for the descent, ultimately under parachutes.

Training covered what would happen if safety systems activated, primarily a backup parachute, and how to move safely in weightlessness.

Patrick said watching Shatner actually go to space in real life and not just on a fictional TV show would be a treat.

"He's somebody who's been responsible, I think, for inspiring millions of us to be interested in space exploration and spaceflight. And somebody who certainly inspired me to get into this business," he said.

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To boldly go: Star Trek's Shatner spacebound with Blue Origin
Washington (AFP) Oct 4, 2021
Blue Origin on Monday confirmed William Shatner, who starred as Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series, will fly to space October 12 aboard the company's crewed rocket, becoming the oldest ever astronaut. "I've heard about space for a long time now. I'm taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle," said the 90-year-old Canadian actor in a statement. The science fiction television show aired for only three seasons starting in 1966, but was hugely influential in pop ... read more

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