William Shatner: Reflections on Space Travel and the Fragility of Earth

Astronauts have been sharing their breathtaking space flight experiences for decades, bringing attention to the wonders of our planet and our need to preserve it. After his space flight, actor William Shatner—best known for his famous portrayal as a spaceship captain on the television series “Star Trek”—developed a new viewpoint. Shatner writes in his new book, “Boldly Go,” co-written with Joshua Brandon, about being overcome with a sensation of mortality as he stared out into space and realized how big the universe was.

Suborbital space tourism adventure Shatner’s space flight happened last year. He was expecting a beautiful vista, but instead he was met with a pitch-black, icy emptiness that was unlike anything he had ever seen. Because of the total darkness, he developed a profound appreciation for the fragility and beauty of life on Earth. He saw the value of protecting and preserving our world as he shifted his attention back to it, calling it Mother Nature or Gaia.

Shatner writes about his deep epiphany in his book that his prior conception of space and the universe was wholly incorrect. Rather than being awestruck by the universe’s size, he was struck by how urgent the problems facing our planet’s ecology are. He said that this was one of the worst times he had ever experienced grief.

“Boldly Go,” which was published by Simon & Schuster in 2011, offers readers a distinctive viewpoint on space exploration and how it may alter how we view Earth. Shatner shared his worries about how the Earth is changing and the pressing need to take action to protect it in an open conversation with CNN. He likened the state of affairs to having mortgage debt and choose to overlook it rather than seek resolution.

Shatner described his space voyage with poignancy, describing his feelings when he looked into the blackness of space and saw what he thought to be death. But it was until his eyes returned to Earth that the seriousness of the situation really dawned on him. He could not help but be saddened by the devastation of our natural world, having studied the history of Earth and the evolution of its beauty over billions of years.


Shatner was filled with tears the moment he set foot back on Earth. Hours passed before he realized the breadth of his feelings and that he was grieving for the status of the world. He became vividly aware of the possibility that humans are the only animals on Earth who can fully appreciate the immensity and magnificence of the universe as a result of this deep experience.

Shatner is astounded by our increasing understanding of the cosmos but also worrying about the dangers to our own existence, considering how far mankind has come in just the last century when contrasted to the thousands of years we have existed. In order to ensure a sustainable future, he highlights the importance of this realization as well as the pressing necessity for action.

Shatner’s trip into space and his subsequent observations serve as a reminder that safeguarding our home planet should be a common objective in a world full of political differences and divergent viewpoints. We must never forget that we have a duty to protect and care for our home planet, Earth, even as we push the limits of space exploration.

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