William Shatner is the oldest person to go to space, but the actor, 91, admitted that getting to experience the difference between Earth and space filled him with “overwhelming sadness,” in an excerpt from his upcoming memoir Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe And Wonder released in Variety. William, who made the trek at 90 in October 2021, said that even though the trip should’ve been a victory lap for the sci-fi star, it ended up being upsetting. “My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral,” he wrote.
The Star Trek icon said that he experienced a phenomenon known as the “overview effect,” and said that it’s common among astronauts, such as Sally Ride. “Essentially, when someone travels to space and views Earth from orbit, a sense of the planet’s fragility takes hold in an ineffable, instinctive manner,” he wrote.
William opened up about looking both out the window at Earth, where life was thriving versus the vacuum of space where nothing could survive. He said that even though he expected the space flight to feel like “the ultimate catharsis,” he felt a stronger connection to his home planet of earth. He said that he was “filled with dread” seeing how “the interference of mankind” had led to so much destruction, including species going extinct.
William admitted that seeing the planet from an unbelievable distance showed that so many of the things that divide people are impossible to see from such a great height. Even though the actor said that he was initially saddened by experiencing the overview effect, he said that eventually, it reignited “a feeling of hope” for him. “In this insignificance we share, we have one gift that other species perhaps do not: we are aware—not only of our insignificance, but the grandeur around us that makes us insignificant. That allows us perhaps a chance to rededicate ourselves to our planet, to each other, to life and love all around us. If we seize that chance,” he concluded the excerpt.
The sci-fi legend’s feelings in the memoir echo similar comments that he made when he landed back on Earth when he first made the trip. After exiting the Blue Origin rocket, William juxtaposed the life that he could see down on Earth versus the emptiness that he saw in outer space. “I want to look at that orb and appreciate its beauty and tenacity,” he said, referring to planet Earth.