When William Shatner went to space, all he saw was death, he said. Astronauts have been saying for decades that their trips to space are “breathtaking” and “humbling.” They say that it reminds them of how fragile the Earth is and how we need to take care of it.
Last year, actor William Shatner went on a suborbital space tourism flight and had the same experience. However, when he turned his eyes from the Earth to the blackness of space, he noticed something very different: “All I saw was death,” he wrote in a new book.
Shatner’s biography, “Boldly Go,” which he wrote with TV and movie writer Joshua Brandon, is full of similar sad stories about Shatner’s time in a real rocket above the Earth’s atmosphere after his famous role as a spaceship captain on the 1960s TV show “Star Trek” and in several franchise movies in the decades that followed.
“I saw something cold, dark, and empty. It was different from any other blackness on Earth. It was deep, all-encompassing, and enveloping. I turned around and headed for the light of home. I could see how the Earth was curved, how the desert was beige, how the clouds were white, and how the sky was blue. It was reality. Taking care of, keeping alive. Earth Mother. Gaia. And I was leaving her,” says an excerpt from “Boldly Go” that was first published by Variety.
It says, “Everything I thought was wrong.” “Nothing was what I thought it would be.”
He thought he would be amazed by the view of the universe without the Earth’s atmosphere in the way, but instead, he was overwhelmed by the thought that people are slowly destroying our home planet. Shatner wrote that it was one of the hardest times he had ever felt sad.
Simon & Schuster, which is a publishing company, put out Shatner’s book on October 4. CNN talked to him in June about the book, his trip to space with Blue Origin, which is backed by Jeff Bezos, and what the 91-year-old plans to do next. Here is a transcript of the interview that has been cut down for length and clarity.
Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” was a book I read about 55 or 60 years ago. She wrote about problems with the environment that are still going on today. Since then, I’ve been a word ecologist. I’ve been aware of how the Earth is changing, and I’m afraid for all of us.
It’s like if someone owed money on a mortgage but couldn’t pay it because they didn’t have the money. So they say, “Well, let’s just go to dinner and forget about it.”
I wanted to get to the window as soon as I got to space to see what was out there. I looked at how dark the space was. There were no lights that stood out. It was so dark that you could feel it. I thought I had seen death.
Then I turned around and looked at Earth. I thought about how we’re killing everything because of my background and all the things I’ve read about how Earth has changed over 5 billion years and how all the beautiful parts of nature have changed.
I was so sad for the Earth that it made me cry.
I didn’t know until I was on the ground. As soon as I got out of the spaceship, I started to cry. I had no idea why. It took me hours to figure out what was making me cry. I saw that I was sad about the Earth.
I don’t want to forget, and I haven’t forgotten, how important that event was.
Think about how much we’ve learned in just the last 100 years, given that people have been around for 200,000 years. We’ve learned about the Big Bang, which is how mountains were made. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how quickly people are becoming smarter even as they are killing themselves.
I wanted to ask him about String Theory, but I never got the chance. We had to make sure he knew all the questions ahead of time. When we set up the meeting, he told us, “I want to ask Shatner a question.”
I’m leaning in because we’re sitting next to each other and looking at the cameras.
So he carefully typed, “What is your favorite Star Trek episode?,” which is the question every fan asks, and I started laughing. He couldn’t make himself laugh (because of his degenerative disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS).
But his red face showed how much he laughed, and he got so red. Then he asked me out to dinner. We had a lovely time together.