See Shatner's emotional remarks after landing

New York (CNN Business)William Shatner, the 90-year-old actor of “Star Trek” fame, endured a 10-minute, rocket-powered ride to the edge of space, which put his body through crushing g-forces that his fellow passengers described as face-bending — only to step out of the vehicle and immediately begin waxing poetic about the experience and dodging a champagne shower.

In that moment, at least one thing became certain: Yes, a nonagenarian can be an astronaut.
Shatner became the oldest person ever to travel to space when his vessel — a suborbital space tourism rocket built by Blue Origin, the company funded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos — brushed the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere and vaulted him into weightlessness. And Shatner’s oldest-in-space record bested the one set only a few months earlier by Wally Funk, who was previously denied the opportunity to fly by NASA in the 1960s before she joined Bezos on a his own Blue Origin flight in July at the age of 82.

    But while Shatner described the payoff of floating above the Earth as “profound,” getting there isn’t always the most comfortable.

      Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of satellite company Planet Labs who flew alongside Shatner, said that as their Blue Origin dove back into the Earth’s thick atmosphere from the vacuum of space, it was as if they were a stone slamming into a body of water.

      “When a stone hits a lake, it stops and then it sinks,” Boshuizen told reporters. “So we literally hit the atmosphere and stopped, and it was about 5Gs…I’ve never experienced that. I was trying to smile but my jaw was pushed back in my head.”
      Private space companies have pledged for years to open up spaceflight to more people. But Americans are used to imagining astronauts as people in prime physical condition, siphoned out of competitive selection processes like those overseen by NASA. So is it really safe for just anyone, even a 90-year-old, to go to space?
      William Shatner is now the oldest person ever to go to space: 'The most profound experience'
      A series of studies in the 2010s sought to answer such question. Researchers put people with pre-existing medical conditions, including elderly men with heart conditions, into a spinning centrifuge to simulate the g-forces the body is subjected to during a trip to space.
      Subjects were strapped into a small capsule attached to a massive metal arm that can swing the capsule around in a circle. That faster it spins, the higher the g-forces pressing into the passenger grow, much like the carnival rides that pin passengers to the wall of a spinning circle by rotating the circle at high speeds. When the centrifuge is stopped, passengers inside could be said to be experiencing 1G, or normal gravity on Earth.
      At 2G, they feel like they weigh twice their body weight. At 5G, a 200-pound person feels like they weigh 1,000 pounds.
      Donoviel pointed to three specific studies that saw people — with a broad range of ages, physical conditions and ailments — endure up to 6G.
      “They were fine, they were perfectly fine,” Donoviel said. “The only thing… that was of concern when they did those studies was really anxiety and definitely claustrophobia.”
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      In one 2015 paper, researchers said as many as 14% of subjects in one experiment suffered anxiety so severe that it interfered with their ability to complete their centrifuge training. It wasn’t easy to predict who might respond that way, even when pre-existing anxiety conditions were taken into account, according to the paper. The report called for more research into the area and suggested possible treatments, such as therapy and medication.
      For its part, Blue Origin does put some limitations on who can fly aboard New Shepard, its suborbital space tourism rocket, including an age requirement that tourists be 18 years or older, be between 5’0″ and 6’4″ and 110 pounds and 223 pounds, and be in good enough physical shape to climb seven flights of stairs in a minute and a half.

      William Shatner's life in pictures

      William Shatner plays Captain James T. Kirk in a 1968 "Star Trek" episode. He starred on the show from 1966-1969 and played Kirk in many of the "Star Trek" movies.

      Shatner and Gloria Vanderbilt appear in "No Deadly Medicine," an episode of the CBS series "Studio One" in 1957.

      Shatner and his first wife, actress Gloria Rand, are seen in 1957.

      Shatner appears in 1958's "Old Marshals Never Die," which was part of the TV series "The United States Steel Hour."

      Shatner plays a teacher in the 1961 movie "The Explosive Generation." It was one of his earliest film roles.

      One of the most memorable episodes of "The Twilight Show" starred Shatner as an airline passenger who sees a gremlin on the wing of the plane. The episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," first aired in 1963.

      Shatner says goodbye to his baby daughter, Melanie, before leaving on a trip in 1965. Shatner and Gloria Rand had three daughters together before divorcing in 1969.

      Shatner appears with castmates on the set of the TV show "Star Trek" in 1966.

      Shatner kisses Nichelle Nichols during the "Star Trek" episode "Plato's Stepchildren" in 1968. It is often credited as<a href="" target="_blank"> the first interracial kiss on American television.</a>

      Shatner, right, appears with Vince Edwards and Richard Basehart in the 1970 television film "Sole Survivor."

      Shatner married actress Marcy Lafferty in 1973. They were married for more than two decades before divorcing in 1996.

      Shatner appears in the television movie "Pioneer Woman" in 1973.

      Shatner talks to fans at a "Star Trek" convention in 1976.

      Shatner, his wife and his three children are photographed together in 1979.

      Shatner sits with "Star Trek" co-star Leonard Nimoy while filming the show "T.J. Hooker" in 1982. The police drama ran from 1982-1986.

      Shatner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983.

      Shatner is kissed by a whale while visiting a wildlife park in Vallejo, California, in 1987. Shatner was promoting contributions to the California Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program.

      Shatner is flanked by his co-stars on the set of the 1989 film "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier." Shatner also directed the movie.

      Shatner and Leonard Nimoy leave their handprints in Hollywood in 1991.

      Shatner speaks to reporters after the death of his third wife, Nerine Kidd, in 1990. Shatner found her body after she had drowned in their swimming pool.

      Shatner appears next to Sandra Bullock in a scene from the 2000 film "Miss Congeniality."

      Shatner appears with Mark Valley and James Spader in an episode of "Boston Legal." The show ran from 2004-2008.

      Shatner is carried by a group of "Star Wars" stormtroopers during a tribute to "Star Wars" creator George Lucas in 2005.

      Shatner won an Emmy Award in 2005 for his supporting role in "Boston Legal."

      Shatner waves to the crowd prior to a celebrity race at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2006.

      Shatner does voice work for the 2006 animated film "Over the Hedge."

      Shatner and Leonard Nimoy reminisce at a "Star Trek" convention in Las Vegas in 2006.

      Shatner attends a celebrity roast in his honor in 2006.

      Shatner attends the unveiling of a Captain Kirk wax figure at the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Los Angeles in 2009.

      Shatner takes part in the closing ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. Shatner, a proud Canadian, was born and raised in Montreal.

      Shatner performs during the opening ceremonies of the World Equestrian Games in 2010. Shatner breeds and owns champion horses.

      Shatner appears with Jonathan Sadowski in an episode of "$#*! My Dad Says" in 2011.

      Shatner interacts with host Seth MacFarlane during the Academy Awards show in 2013.

      From left, Terry Bradshaw, Shatner, Jeff Dye, George Foreman and Henry Winkler appear on an episode of the travel show "Better Late Than Never" in 2016. They were in Seoul, South Korea.

      Shatner receives an honorary degree at the New England Institute of Technology in 2018. He was delivering the commencement address for that year's graduating class.

      Shatner accepts the Governors Award on behalf of the cast and crew of "Star Trek" during the 2018 Creative Arts Emmys.

      Shatner plays himself on the final episode of "The Big Bang Theory" in 2019.

      Shatner is invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor General Julie Payette in 2019.

      Shatner poses with other members of a Blue Origin crew before its scheduled suborbital flight in October 2021. From left are Chris Boshuizen, Shatner, Audrey Powers and Glen de Vries.

      Shatner and his Blue Origin crewmates float inside a capsule during their suborbital flight in October 2021.

      The stair climb is no joke: Blue Origin passengers must rapidly climb what’s called the gantry, a tower that allows the crew to access their capsule as the 60-foot-tall rocket sits on the launch pad, brimming with fuel and ready to blast off.
      Shatner quipped about scaling the tower after his flight, saying “good lord, just getting up the bloody gantry.”
      But Donoviel said she believes even little kids could potentially be blasted into outer space without concern on an otherwise safe rocket ride.
      “I actually have no concerns about children flying,” she said. “As long as they’re big enough to fit in the seats…The same thing as going on a rollercoaster ride — you must be this tall to ride this ride.”
      It should be noted that getting to — and especially returning from — space is not necessarily comfortable, though all of the Blue Origin passengers on Wednesday raved about their trip.
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      Spaceflight passengers often describe the moments of discomfort with nostalgic glee. After all, it can be a visceral reminder that you’re on a supersonic excursion to outer space.
      And in Shatner’s case, it did appear to provide a transformational experience.
      It’s not something a person can understand until “you’re up there and you see the black darkness, the ugliness,” he told CNN’s Kristin Fisher in a post-flight interview. “From our point of view, space is filled with mystery…but in that moment, it is blackness and death. In this moment down here, as we look down, [Earth] is life and nurturing. That’s what everybody needs to know.”

        If the past eight months are any indicator, Shatner is far from the last civilian to experience spaceflight. So far in 2021, more than 20 people who do not list astronaut as their day job have made a trek to the so-called final frontier, and none of them proved to lack the proverbial “right stuff.” (Though, it should be noted, none of them had to pilot their respective spacecrafts and most have taken only minutes-long trips to suborbital space.)
        Physiological concerns aside, any future participant should keep in mind that spaceflight is inherently risky. Drumming up enough speed and power to defy gravity requires rockets to use powerful, controlled explosions and complex technology that always involves some uncertainties.
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