In this blog we’ll go through the “Star Trek” icon William Shatner’s experience on his space trip that left him feeling terrible grief.
Space travel can be an amazing and exhilarating experience, but it can also be incredibly taxing on our mental health. This is something that William Shatner learned the hard way when he took a space shuttle trip that left him feeling small and insignificant in the vast emptiness of space. He said that the vast emptiness of space was something he just couldn’t shake off. Despite being an incredible experience, it was one that took a toll on his mental health, which is something we don’t often think about when it comes to space travel.
Void of Space
After describing the exhilarating launch procedure and beginning of his zero-gravity excursion, Shatner wrote that when he turned around to look into the void of space, he was shocked by the emptiness he found.
“When I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold,” Shatner wrote. “All I saw was death.”
In spite of his conceptual love of space — after all, he played Captain Kirk on “Star Trek” during the beginning of the space race — and the mystery it presented, what Shatner was forced to contend with in the real thing was far from what he expected.
“I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness,” he wrote. “It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing.”
After looking back “toward the light of home,” Shatner described an intense homesickness for the planet he had just left.
“I turned back toward the light of home,” the “TJ Hooker” star wrote. “I could see the curvature of Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nurturing, sustaining, life. Mother Earth. Gaia. And I was leaving her.”
“Everything I had thought was wrong,” he concluded. “Everything I had expected to see was wrong.”
Many space travelers have described an experience termed the “Overview Effect,” or a sense of euphoria and interconnectedness stemming from viewing Earth from above. Shatner alluded to the phenomenon, but even his takeaway there sounds unusually dark.
“When someone travels to space and views Earth from orbit,” he wrote, “a sense of the planet’s fragility takes hold in an ineffable, instinctive manner.”
“The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness,” Shatner added. “My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.”
While this is the most detailed description of Shatner’s trip to space, it was not the first time the “Star Trek” star had spoken publicly about it.
Shortly after landing from his spaceflight, which took place almost exactly a year ago, Shatner thanked Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos profusely for the trip.
“What you have given me is the most profound experience,” he told Bezos through tears. “I hope I never recover from this.”
If his memoir is any indicator, Shatner has seemingly kept that hope alive.
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