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OtherThe Cambridges

William Shatner hits back at Prince William’s criticism of space travel


Photo Copyright: Charlie Proctor / Royal Central

Actor William Shatner, 90, recently became the oldest person to go to space. He and three other people rode a Blue Origin rocket, a company headed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The four spent ten minutes in space, going just beyond the Karman Line, also known as the internationally recognised space boundary.

This is the latest of space travel trips, funded by global billionaires, including Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk and the aforementioned Jeff Bezos. 

When asked about the climate crisis in a BBC interview that aired the day after Shatner’s trip, Prince William commented: “We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.”

The Duke of Cambridge is concerned about the increasing worry that he sees in children: “Young people now are growing up where their futures are basically threatened the whole time. It’s very unnerving.”

He added: “If we’re not careful we’re robbing from our children’s future through what we do now and I think that’s not fair.”

Prince William also spoke about the UN climate conference, COP26 and his first Earthshot Prize, awarding people who are working to find solutions to our climate crisis. 

In response to Prince William, the Star Trek actor said: “He’s a lovely, gentle, educated man, but he’s got the wrong idea.”

Shatner believes the flights are a way to get polluting industries off of Earth, adding: “We’ve got all the technology, the rockets, to send the things up there. You can build a base 250, 280 miles above the Earth and send that power down here and they catch it and they then use it and it’s there.”

The Twitterverse came alive when they heard Shatner’s comments about polluting space with our industries. Not only is this technology not available, no one seems very keen on polluting space. Comments range from “Captain Kirk is off the deep end. Power plants in space!!!! How much will that cost?” to “Things most people don’t care about–Rich, old, white guys shooting themselves into space, @elonmusk, @JeffBezos, William Shatner, et al. Fix Earth. Stop polluting so much. Fight climate change. Help us become more sustainable. Those things are what people care about.”

Earlier this year an article in Business Insider came out explaining that the carbon footprint of each blast off has not been disclosed, but experts believe the space tourism industry is not sustainable. It has a limited number of passengers on each flight and the emissions from each launch can worsen health problems and exacerbate extreme weather events.

University College London associate professor Eloise Marais commented: “While the propellants used to launch Blue Origin’s New Shepard, Virgin’s VSS Unity and SpaceX’s Falcon rockets vary, the ignition and burning process often generate greenhouse gases, water vapor and heat.”

In addition to emissions, if we did follow Shatner’s advice and have polluting industries in space, it would add to already overwhelming problem of space junk. Currently, NASA is monitoring over 27,000 pieces of orbital debris with more too small to be tracked. The debris, travelling at a high rate of speed, has the potential to be extremely detrimental if it hits satellites, the International Space Station or spacecraft, including rockets carrying tourists.