An emotional Shatner emerges from the capsule after landing gently in the Texas desert and embraces Amazon founder and boss of the space company Jeff Bezos.
Highlights of William Shatner’s space flight
Star Trek actor William Shatner has become the oldest person to reach space, calling his trip “the most profound experience”.
The 90-year-old blasted off from Texas at 3.49pm UK time on a Blue Origin rocket – the space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series, spent 10 minutes on his suborbital flight alongside three others.
As it happened – William Shatner becomes oldest ever astronaut
‘Is that death?’ Shatner emotional after space trip
Image: The rocket reached 2,235mph (3,597kph) and the mission lasted just over 10 minutes
After touching down, Shatner placed his hands on Bezos’s shoulders and told him: “What you have given me is the most profound experience… I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened”.
“I hope I never recover from this. I hope I can maintain what I feel now – I don’t want to lose it,” he added.
He said that smashing through the blue sky to the blackness of space was a moving experience.
“You look down, there’s the blue down there and the black up there – and it’s just, there is Mother Earth. This is life and that’s death, and in an instant, you know that’s death,” Shatner said.
“That’s what I saw. Is that the way death is?…” he asked.
Image: The capsule landed in the desert at 3.59pm UK time
Shatner hugs Bezos as he emerges from space capsule
Before the launch, Shatner had admitted he was a “little frightened”.
The 18-metre New Shepard rocket sent the quartet just above the internationally-recognised boundary of space known as the Karman Line, reaching about 66 miles (106km) above Earth.
The reusable rocket detached from the capsule carrying the astronauts and fired its engines to land itself upright back on the launch pad.
Shatner experienced weightlessness before parachutes delivered the capsule back to Earth at about 15mph, touching down in a cloud of dust in the desert.
Bezos opened the hatch as Shatner and the others stepped out to cheers and hugs from their families.
'Marketing gold' – Analysis by Greg Milam, US correspondent
If William Shatner has delivered a better monologue during his acting career then it must have been something special.
What the 90-year-old had to say after stepping out of a space capsule in the Texas desert was pure marketing gold for Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.
He listened as Shatner extolled the magical experience of travel to outer space and the changed perspective on the vulnerability of our planet.
“Everybody in the world needs to do this,” he said.
Which is fine if, as things currently stand, you have a few million to spare or happen to be an idol from Bezos’s childhood. For the rest of us, we shouldn’t hold our breath.
In fairness it was hard not to be swept up in the emotion of what a clearly-moved Shatner had to say. Yes, he is an actor but surely he can’t be THAT good.
He had wanted to experience first-hand what plenty who have gone before him have described, that life-changing experience of seeing the Earth from 60 miles up, appreciating its beauty and fragility for a few brief minutes.
He expressed better than most what it was really like.
Delivering it in a voice that is so familiar and which, for generations of people, is how they have heard and understood the very concept of space travel. That was science fiction, this is fact.
Giving him a free seat then, for Bezos, was a PR no-brainer.
So many in today’s space industry revere Shatner as Captain Kirk, and for everyone else seeing a 90-year-old go to space might make it feel more realistic.
It came with a risk, though. Space travel is hard and everyone knows things can go wrong.
Shatner said the numerous delays to his launch had started to make his stomach churn.
So another successful launch and landing has huge value in showing the world that it can be done safely.
The space industry tells us that this space race is not just about billionaires and their friends enjoying joyrides, but also about advancing technology and understanding how to solve problems on Earth.
They have some work to do on convincing much of the world.
A space-suited Bezos was there to drive Shatner to the launch pad, close the door before lift-off and open it after landing, he needed to be front and centre of this event.
“It was unbelievable,” said Shatner. It was the sort of publicity, it turns out, that one of the richest people on the planet COULD buy.
Shatner and crew ring bell as they board capsule
Image: From left, Chris Boshuizen, William Shatner, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries. Pic: AP
Two paying customers were on the flight: former NASA engineer Chris Boshuizen – who co-founded a satellite company, and clinical research entrepreneur Glen de Vries.
The fourth astronaut was Blue Origin vice president and former NASA space station flight controller Audrey Powers.
The company tweeted that the rocket reached 2,235mph (3,597kph) and the mission lasted 10 minutes and 17 seconds.
Blue Origin’s rocket system is called New Shepard, named after the Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard who was the first American to go into space.
Why billionaires are going to space
The company aims to attract regular paying customers in future and had its maiden space tourism flight on 20 July, when Bezos and three others flew to the edge of space.
Other billionaires are also competing in the space race, notably Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.