CNN Business spoke to the “Star Trek” legend in an extended interview this week. Here is a brief summary.
“There’s Mother Earth and comfort, and then there’s… death,” he said at the time.
After the flight, he couldn’t stop crying, he said in an interview with CNN Business this week.
“It took me hours to understand what it was, why I was crying,” he said. “I realized I was sad. I was mourning the destruction of the Earth.”
Shatner said he was deeply impressed by “Silent Spring,” the 1962 book on environmental activism by biologist Rachel Carson.
What he thinks about billionaires in space
Companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Bezos’ Blue Origin – which run two of the world’s richest men – have often been the target of criticism. Could space exploration, paved by the rich, ever bring about the kind of egalitarianism heralded by “Star Trek”?
“That’s missing the whole idea here,” Shatner said. “The whole idea is to get people used to space, like going to the Riviera. It’s not a vanity. It’s a business.”
Why send a software developer into space?
Shatner said he jumped on board with the idea because he wanted “problem solvers” to experience a transformative, joyful ride at high altitudes, just like he did.
“I want to get [these coders] interested in the development of the financial community, but then saying, ‘Why don’t you set your sights on carbon capture or, you know, one of the big problems? Hungry? Poverty?'” said Shatner.
Shatner’s Dinner with Stephen Hawking
Shatner said he has a new fascination with string theory — a popular idea that tries to explain quantum physics, or how subatomic particles behave, and how it fits in with more easily observable scientific ideas, such as gravity.
“I never got to ask him that question” about string theory, Shatner recalls. “But he had said when we made this appointment, ‘I want to ask Shatner a question.’ I lean forward, you know, we’re sitting side by side looking at the cameras… and he laboriously typed, ‘What’s your favorite episode?'”
Shatner, for the record, doesn’t have a favorite “Star Trek” episode and didn’t answer. But Hawking invited him to dinner anyway.
‘What are you doing? During dinner? With someone who can’t talk?’ Shatner laughed. “But I had a nice moment with him.”
For those curious, Shatner also summed up his musings on string theory, which holds that everything in the universe, at its most basic level, is composed of vibrating strings: “I think we are vibrating with the universe. It’s a matter of connecting ourselves.”