INDIANAPOLIS — On Wednesday, 90-year-old William Shatner boarded Blue Origin's New Shepard space capsule and blasted off on a 10-minute flight into space with three other crew members.
Two days later, the Canadian actor best known as Captain Kirk from the television and movie series "Star Trek" is back on Earth but still flying high emotionally.
Shatner is signing autographs this weekend at the Indiana Comic Convention while at a loss for words to describe his trip to the final frontier.
"Here we are on an exploding vehicle going 2,500 miles an hour,” said Shatner just minutes after arriving at the Indiana Convention Center Friday afternoon. “How do you explain that? There's no reference. How do you explain weightlessness? How do you explain the blackness of space, or all the magical things, or the terror?"
Fans lined up to pay $120 for an autograph or a photo with Shatner.
"It's really incredible,” said Dani Conner from Champaign, Illinois. “Are you kidding me? I thought he was going to like cancel and need a nap. But he's here."
Conner and her lifelong friend Kelly Stanfield both wore Star Trek uniform outfits and had music albums signed by Shatner.
"I feel really fortunate to be able to have seen him just after that because there is this whole kind of conversation about it,” said Stanfield, a mail carrier from Charleston, Illinois.
“I met a space man,” said Conner. “In 20 years, we'll all be able to go up there and vacation, right?”
Many people at Comic Con dress up as imaginary characters. But maybe the idea that just about anybody could go to space for real isn't make believe. Captain Kirk just did it.
"Within 20 years we'll probably be doing that right at the fair,” said Casey Constant from South Bend. “Hey, let's shoot you into space for 10 minutes.”
Constant wore a Star Trek t-shirt and got an autographed photo of Shatner as Captain Kirk.
Shatner became the oldest person to travel into space. The crew members were allowed to unstrap during the apogee of the suborbital flight. The capsule traveled to an altitude of almost 66 miles, four miles beyond the widely-recognized boundary of space.
"No description could equal this,” Shatner can be heard saying while floating in weightlessness in video released by Blue Origin.
Shatner said he was in sheer awe looking out the window of the space capsule.
“Well yes, upon reaching the zenith. You think, 'OK, all that has to happen now are for the parachutes to deploy'. Prior to that, I have to get in my seat in weightlessness. I have to float to my seat and do a five-point harness,” said Shatner, laughing at himself.
Shatner admitted he is exhausted and sore, but also exhilarated to share his experience. He will have three more autograph sessions Saturday at the convention center.
"Just getting out of the chair, practicing getting in and out, because they wanted us to know what to do with weightlessness... I mean, my muscles are so tight," said Shatner.
The crew also included Audrey Powers, Blue Origin's vice president of mission and flight operations, Glen de Vries, vice chair for life sciences and healthcare at French software company Dassault Systèmes and Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of the Earth-observation company Planet.
"I watched it live,” said Constant. “We were at work. I watched him when he got out of the capsule. The emotion he had over the whole experience, I can only imagine to live the life he's lived and everything he's done and then be able to do that.”
It’s a trip Constant hopes people who aren’t rich and famous can take one day.
"Just to get a glimpse of what he saw for a few minutes of how special our planet is, but also the possibilities of what we could do out there,” said Constant.
Space tourism is not just a comic book story anymore.
“We know like a blip of anything about it,” said Stanfield. “It's so intriguing, the possibilities, what's out there. Is there other life forms out there?
“The final frontier, right?" said Conner.