Space fans, Trekkies gather near Van Horn to watch William Shatner launch into space

Local News

VAN HORN, Texas (Nexstar) – A lot of Star Trek fans had their eyes on West Texas.

Some even made the trip north of Van Horn to settle along Highway 54 Wednesday morning. The reason: 90-year-old William Shatner was lifting off into space on a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket. Three others were accompanying Shatner, who famously portrayed Captain Kirk on the Sci-fi series, Star Trek.

“Captain Kirk. William Shatner. We had to come see that. You know, it’s history,” said Michael Gonzales of Fort Stockton.

The launch made for the second human flight for billionaire Jeff Bezos and his private aerospace company, Blue Origin. The company is based out of Van Horn.

Approximately one-hundred people lined Highway 54 just short of a DPS blockade, meant for public safety. Those people included a number of spectators and news crews, alike. Before the sun shined among the clouds and through the rugged peaks of the Sierra Diablo wilderness, a steady anticipation grew this cold, clear, and windless morning.

“That’s the word, ‘Excitement.’ For me, it’s exciting,” said Jorge Soto of Juarez.

“We’re the first high school to come out and do something like this so it’s a real pleasure,” said one student from Fort Stockton High School. A busload of chaperoned students were brought to the watch site.

“Space travel is obviously very exciting. But throw William Shatner on top of that… being a Star Trek fan from back in the day, it’s sort of a no brainer,” said Robert Stevens.

“It’s pretty neat that he’s 90 and he’s decided he’s going to fulfill this dream that he’s sort of been living in our minds, at least forever,” said AJ Lowe of San Antonio.

Cars, trucks, vans, and even an over-sized tractor trailer carrying a mobile home pulled into the dirt shoulders of Highway 54. The over-sized tractor trailer was likely there because of the blockade impeding its passage. Regardless, drivers stopped, waited, and watched.

After all, it was a curiosity that seized the attention of most people: How loud will lift-off be? How will William Shatner react? How will I react?

But perhaps the most important question was: When will the launch start?

It was delay after delay. The launch was expected roughly around 8:30 A.M. But lift-off was pushed back forty minutes. Then, another 30 minutes went by. The crowd seemed restless, maybe antsy. A few pulled out their binoculars. Others clung onto cameras, waiting for any sign of ignition. Then, a spark and a rumble jolted the crowd awake.

It was the best sight to see.

It didn’t matter if you were on the ground or on top of a car – where some chose to position themselves in an attempt to get a peek of the launch site – because all anyone had to do was look up.

A few clamored during lift-off about the whereabouts of the rocket. Some missed the rocket, instead focusing on the massive plume of smoke that had formed at the base of the launch site. But pretty quickly, thick, white contrails formed in the sky.

For the few that knew, there was going to be a violent boom. It was the sound of the sonic boom from the rocket’s booster landing back on Earth’s soil.

“That was really awesome. That was unexpected,” said Sophie Gonzales of Fort Stockton. “We were like ‘Oh, Wow!’ To hear the ending, that was just the best ending.”  

If the launch did anything, it made the early morning crowd want to book their next flight on a rocket.

“I think for most of us that came here, that’s the dream,” said Jorge Soto. “It’s to be in one of those capsules, and see space.” 

“I’ve always wanted to see one and now I’ve seen one, and I can check it off my bucket list,” said another content rocket watcher. 

William Shatner and his accompanying crew landed safely back on Earth. It makes Captain Kirk the oldest person to reach the edge of space… what no 90-year-old has done before.

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