William Shatner Turned Down Virgin Galactic Spaceflight 10 Years Ago Due to Flying Fears

William Shatner, best known for playing Captain Kirk in the sci-fi classic Star Trek, once turned down a spaceflight offer because he was frightened of flying.

The Canadian actor, 90, has apparently overcome his fears, since he is due to briefly blast into space on Wednesday afternoon with Jeff Bezos' rocket company Blue Origin.

The launch will take place at around 10 a.m. EDT from Blue Origin's Launch Site One in Texas. Shatner will be joined by three other passengers: Blue Origin mission expert Audrey Powers; Glen de Vries, co-founder of clinical research platform Medidata Solutions; and Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of the Earth-observation company Planet.

But Shatner could have gotten to the stars even sooner if he had gone along with an offer from Richard Branson, boss of the Virgin business conglomerate and its space tourism arm Virgin Galactic.

Back in 2013, it was claimed that Branson had once approached Shatner to ask him if he wanted to go to space aboard one of the company's new spaceplanes—the SpaceShipTwo, which at the time had recently completed its first powered flight. The company would not reach space for around five more years.

But Shatner reportedly refused back in 2011 because he was scared of flying and also didn't want to pay, as per British newspaper The Sun, according to several other reports at the time.

Branson had told The Sun: "He actually said he's frightened of airline travel—which is slightly disillusioning; Captain Kirk is scared of flying."

It was also claimed that Shatner did not want to foot the $170,000 bill associated with the flight, and was quoted as saying, in 2011: "'Hey, you pay me and I'll go'... but he didn't pick me up on my offer."

Newsweek has contacted Virgin Galactic for comment.

In any case, Virgin Galactic did not end up completing its first fully-crewed flight until July this year, just days before Blue Origin had its first crewed spaceflight.

On October 4, Blue Origin confirmed Shatner would join the crew of the company's second flight. "I've heard about space for a long time now," the actor said in a statement. "I'm taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle."

Still, it seems that Shatner has not completely shaken his fear of flying just yet. He told NBC's Today program this week: "I'm thrilled and anxious, and a little nervous and a little frightened, about this whole new adventure."

At 90, Shatner is set to become the oldest person ever to go into space. The mission, called NS-18, will last just over 10 minutes. In that time, the rocket will carry the crew to space before separating and allowing the crew capsule to float back down to Earth.

The launch had been scheduled for Tuesday this week, but Shatner and the rest of the crew had to wait until today due to windy conditions.

A live stream of the launch can be watched on Blue Origin's website and is due to start 90 minutes before launch.

William Shatner
William Shatner speaking at a Chicago fan convention in March, 2020. The Star Trek actor is due to rocket into space on Wednesday. Barry Brecheisen/WireImage / Getty