William Shatner traumatized by his space trip

“My space trip was supposed to be a party. Instead, I experienced it as a funeral. »

Of the few humans lucky enough to cross the frontiers of space, many have returned transformed. They generally describe a phenomenon since baptized overhang effect which results from the putting into perspective of the Earth, suspended in the middle of space.

An experience often described as overwhelming and deeply cathartic. It is likely to radically change a person’s view of the Earth, nature, the condition of the human species, and its extreme fragility. But sometimes, when you expect to feel a particular emotion, the opposite can happen; William Shatner can attest to that.

The experience of the actor, who played Captain Kirk in the legendary series Star Trek for a long time, seems to have been particularly intense. He launched into space in October 2021 aboard a New Shepard rocket from Blue Origin. With his three mission comrades, he spent about ten minutes at the edge of space; he thus became the oldest space traveler in history.

And the least we can say is that he was branded by his stay among the stars. Upon his return, he could not hold back his tears, claiming to have lived “ deepest experience “. As viewers, we imagined it to be a mix of positive emotions… but the reality is much more nuanced than that. In his new autobiographical book, he describes a state of mind very different from the usual euphoria of space travelers.

The other side of the overhang effect

I love the mysteries of the universe. I love all the questions we asked ourselves over thousands of years of exploring and guessing…but when I looked the other way, into space, there was no mystery , nothing majestic to contemplate… all i’ve seen is death “, he admits in the extract published by Variety.

It was one of the strongest feelings of grief I’ve ever experienced “, he specifies. “ The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the gentle warmth of the Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. »

Everything I expected was wrong. I thought going to space would be the ultimate catharsis for that connection I’ve always sought between all living beings. I thought this would be the next wonderful step in understanding the harmony of the universe.…” he continues.

Every day we are faced with the destruction of the Earth at our own hand: the extinction of things that took 5 billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the intervention of the Earth. ‘humanity he writes with palpable bitterness. Unlike most of his fellows, he therefore did not return from space with a heart full of hope, but ” filled with terror “. ” My space trip was supposed to be a party. Instead I lived it like a funeral “, concludes the 91-year-old actor.

The psychology of space, a very important factor

This somewhat morbid tirade, some will perhaps see in it a whim of the rich, or even the beginning of depression in a personality who is approaching the twilight of his life. But in any case, the great honesty shown by the actor makes this testimony quite unique and extremely interesting. Indeed, civilians returning from space almost always describe an overwhelmingly positive version of the overhang effect.

But in the case of these trade missions, it is not always clear whether this ecstasy is entirely genuine; it could also include a communication effort. After all, seeing amateur astronauts raving about their return to Earth is the best publicity there is for an operator like Blue Origin!

Shatner’s testimony shows that everyone can live this experience in their own way. And this is a point that operators will absolutely have to take into account in the future; the “psychology of space” will be a crucial element, as much for the short tourist missions as for the extended expeditions which will arrive in the next decades. We definitely have a lot to learn about ourselves before Homo sapiens sapiens becomes a truly interplanetary species.

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