Star Trek’s William Shatner Finally Reaches The Final Frontier in Blue Origin Spaceship

Alan Boyle, GeekWire

GeekWire contributing editor Alan Boyle is an award-winning science writer and veteran space reporter. Formerly of NBCNews.com, he is the author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference." Follow him via CosmicLog.com, on Twitter @b0yle, and on Facebook and MeWe.

Blue Origin

Reality caught up with science fiction today when Star Trek actor William Shatner, a.k.a. Captain James T. Kirk, briefly crossed into outer space aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital spaceship.

In the process, the 90-year-old Shatner took the title of oldest human in space, less than three months after 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk set that record on Blue Origin's first-ever crewed flight.


"How about that, guys?" Shatner could be heard saying during the descent. "That was unlike anything they described. … That was unlike anything you could ever feel."

Today's mission at Blue Origin's Launch Site One in West Texas was the 18th for the New Shepard breed of spaceships, including 16 uncrewed flights over the past six years. It marked a bright day for Jeff Bezos' Kent, Wash.-based space venture, coming amid a set of challenges and controversies.

The flight followed the pattern set by July's milestone mission, which carried Funk, Bezos, his brother Mark and Dutch student Oliver Daemen across the 100-kilometer (62-mile) space boundary known as the Karman Line.

Today, Shatner was joined by three other spacefliers: Chris Boshuizen, a venture capitalist who co-founded Planet Labs; Glen de Vries, a co-founder of Medidata Solutions who is now an executive at Dassault Systems; and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin's vice president of New Shepard mission and flight operations.

Boshuizen and de Vries paid an undisclosed fare for their trip, while Shatner and Powers flew on Blue Origin's behalf.

Before heading out to the launch pad, Blue Origin crew trainer Sarah Knights presented the quartet with commemorative coins. "Heads we go, tails we don't," Shatner joked.

While the booster flew itself to a touchdown on a landing pad not far from the launch pad, the four space travelers returned to their seats for a parachute-aided descent back to the Texas desert. The trip took 10 minutes and 17 seconds.

Blue OriginThe crew capsule sits at its landing site.

After the landing, Bezos opened the hatch and ushered the crew out for a round of hugs from friends and family — and a spray of celebratory champagne.

"Everybody in the world needs to do this," Shatner told Bezos as he stood outside the capsule. "It was unbelievable. … To see the blue colors just whip by, and now you're staring into blackness. … There is Mother Earth and comfort, and there is space. Is there death? I don't know.

"What you've given me is the most profound experience I can imagine," said Shatner, seemingly overcome. "I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened. It's so extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this."

Bezos then gave each of the fliers a custom-made astronaut pin and a hug. Thousands of postcards were packed aboard the capsule for the Club for the Future, Blue Origin's nonprofit educational program, and they'll be returned to senders now that they've come back from space.

Shatner was the star of today's mission, thanks to his long-running status as a space-show celebrity. He was the starship captain in the original "Star Trek" series in 1966-1969, in an age before his three shipmates were born, and went on to roles in a string of Star Trek movies as well as non-spacey films and TV series.

Blue OriginThe New Shepard crew capsule descends to its touchdown.

He's also served as a pitchman for Priceline, and at times, Shatner sounded as if he was playing that role in an unofficial capacity for Bezos and his space vision. "Jeff Bezos' concept to make living and building in space, and to make pollution a thing of the past — what noble ambitions those are, and somebody has to start it," he said in a pre-launch video released by Blue Origin.

So far, New Shepard seems to be the most successful element of Blue Origin's multi-pronged space program. After July's first crewed mission, Bezos said that his 21-year-old space venture had racked up nearly $100 million in private sales for future suborbital spaceflights. The next crewed flight is expected to take place late this year, and there'll be uncrewed research missions as well.

Blue Origin has faced setbacks on other fronts, including delays in the development of its next-generation BE-4 rocket engine and its orbital-class New Glenn rocket. This spring, it lost out to SpaceX in a multibillion-dollar competition to build the first lunar lander to carry astronauts for NASA's Artemis moon program. A ruling on Blue Origin's legal challenge is expected next month.

Blue OriginThe crew capsule sits at its landing site.

There have been signs of internal dissension as well: Last month, an essay attributed to 21 current and former Blue Origin employees accused the company of laxity when it comes to sexual harassment and flight safety.

According to the essay, most of the authors "would not fly on a Blue Origin vehicle" due to safety concerns. Perhaps in response to the essay, today's Blue Origin webcast made a point of emphasizing the safety of the New Shepard system.

"There are a lot of people at Blue that would be excited to fly on New Shepard, and I'm happy to count myself as one of them. It's a fantastic system. It's a very robust system," Andrew Lake, senior director of New Shepard safety and mission assurance, said in a pre-recorded interview.

"Well, I hope we get to go one day," replied Ariane Cornell, who doubles as a launch commentator as well as Blue Origin's director of astronaut and orbital sales.

This article originally appeared on GeekWire.

🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

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Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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  • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110

Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab

Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo


Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


KidsX

The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health


Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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