Admittedly, inviting Shatner to fly into space is a bit of a publicity stunt, but a lot of the early manned missions had their share of fanfare. While the technological achievements of the early space program were important, there were other motives to send humans into the heavens.
These three men are all wealthy visionaries who would like to see humanity eventually explore the stars. And, I have no doubt, they are keeping tabs on each other’s successes in fear of being left behind.
One might think that I would be critical of showy and calculated displays of success, but I’m not really. They are motivational in the same way NASA’s early successes inspired my generation. As long as they are accompanied by a steady march of technological progress, I’m all for them.
Shatner is an actor and not an engineer, nor an entrepreneur. He has never contributed directly to space exploration, but he was part of an influential science fiction dynasty that continues to motivate and excite young people to look to the stars and dream. I expect that flights like the one scheduled for this week will change a child’s life and maybe 50 years hence, humanity will be closer to realizing the dream represented by “Star Trek.”