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‘This comforter of blue’: how Shatner’s blast into space became an ode to Earth

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‘This comforter of blue’: how Shatner’s blast into space became an ode to Earth

There’s nothing like a vacation to make you appreciate home.

That seemed to be the sentiment behind William Shatner’s words as he returned from a brief journey to space on Wednesday. In remarks filmed after he landed, the actor described having had “the most profound experience I can imagine”.

But his focus wasn’t on boldly going where few have gone before. What left him most in awe was viewing Earth – “this sheet, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around us” – from far away. Space, according to Shatner, was “black ugliness”, a bleak contrast with the beauty of our home planet. “You look down [at Earth], there’s the blue down there, and the black up there, it’s just – there is Mother Earth and comfort, and there is – is there … death? I don’t know.”

It’s remarkable. When Captain Kirk finally achieves liftoff, he ends up reflecting on where he came from.

Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

It’s perhaps even more remarkable given the driving force behind Shatner’s flight – the man to whom he said: “I hope I never recover from this” – is Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of Blue Origin. Bezos nodded as Shatner rhapsodized, but his own approach to the future is quite different.

Bezos’s vision involves colonizing space – a trillion people living away from our home planet, in “very large structures, miles on end”, that “hold a million people or more each”. His belief, according to a 2019 presentation, is that “the Earth is finite, and if the world economy and population is to keep expanding, space is the only way to go”. He isn’t fully writing off this planet – the presentation was titled Going to Space to Benefit Earth – but his focus appears to be on humanity’s departure.

To be fair, Bezos has also pledged to donate $10bn to fighting the climate crisis (though he started a company whose carbon footprint in 2018 was the size of Norway’s). But perhaps Shatner’s words can serve as a reminder that the Earth is what we have, and we should fight for it. “This is life,” Bezos said, echoing his passenger. Let’s hope he believes it: with a little more help from those with endless resources, we might even be able to wring a few extra years out of this place. In the meantime, let’s celebrate where we live – below “this sheet, this blanket, this comforter of blue”. 

Reference: The Guardian: Matthew Cantor 

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