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Space Flight Left William Shatner Weeping and 'Grieving for the Earth'

The actor who played Star Trek's legendary Capt. Kirk warns that the environmental crisis is "gonna get worse."

William Shatner speaking into a microphone
William Shatner was deeply touched by his space flight.
Amanda Kooser/CNET

Traveling to space hit Star Trek actor William Shatner hard. Shatner was 90 last October when he completed his first real trip to space atop a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket. And the man famed for playing Capt. James T. Kirk told CNN Business the trip really affected him.

Shatner, now 91, said that he could not stop crying after his flight.

"It took me hours to understand what it was, why I was weeping," he said in a CNN Business article published Saturday. "I realized I was in grief. I was grieving for the destruction of the Earth."

He said that the environmental crisis is "gonna get worse," adding, "It's like somebody owing money on a mortgage, and they don't have the payments and they think, 'Oh well, let's go to dinner and not think about it.'"

He also said that modern space exploration, which has been criticized for being available only to the super-wealthy, is misunderstood.

"The whole idea is to get people accustomed to space, like going to the Riviera," Shatner said. "It's not a vanity. It's a business."

Shatner is involved with a competition called Hack the Galaxy, a project of digital payments platform developer Rapyd. The company promises that winners will have the opportunity to travel to the "edge of space" in 2026.

"Fellow space enthusiasts -- Hack the Galaxy kicks off today!" he tweeted on June 7. "Don't worry, the space capsule has wifi. I checked. So you can still like my tweets. 

The contest calls on developers to solve biweekly coding challenges, then choose between a cash price or a chance to ride in a capsule attached to a balloon that will go to 100,000 feet (just under 19 miles) high. The internationally recognized boundary of space, known as the Kármán line, is at a little over 60 miles in altitude.

Shatner says he hopes the coders will then take an interest in putting their minds to such issues as hunger and poverty.