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Swift: Captain Kirk's space trip may start seniornaut trend

Thanks to Amazon's recent New Shepard flight, William Shatner has boldly gone where no nonagenarian has gone before. Which got this columnist thinking: Doesn't every senior citizen deserve to visit space? But first, Jeff Bezos is going to have to make some modifications to the rocket, including Barcaloungers, a spacesuit redesign and lots of old TV Guides in the bathrooms.

Blue Origin's rocket New Shepard blasts off carrying Star Trek actor William Shatner, 90, on billionaire Jeff Bezos's company's second suborbital tourism flight as part of a four-person crew near Van Horn, Texas, U.S., October 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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FARGO — How fitting that Captain Kirk finally returned to space.

By now, we've all heard how the indomitable William Shatner, age 90, has boldly gone where no nonagenarian has gone before.

He hitched a ride aboard Jeff Bezos’ New Shepard rocket which, in classic Amazon style, delivered its passengers to space via expedited Prime delivery for 10 minutes. It then returned them safely, on the doorstep of West Texas.


And Shatner isn't the only senior to get this rare opportunity. He was preceded by 82-year-old Wally Funk, an iconic aviator who flew with Bezos on a space flight in July.

Shatner and Funk are poster children for the Grandma Moses in all of us — that part which is eternally willing to learn, grow, push through fear and explore new frontiers.

While ordinary 90-year-olds are getting Meals on Wheels and participating in footcare classes, Shatner will be introducing the first toupee to space.

It got me thinking: Wouldn't it be cool if more senior citizens got this chance, and not just those who starred in a famous TV series or paid $100 million for a seat? Who deserves an out-of-this-world voyage more than someone who has already survived nearly a century of war and drama on Earth?

It would be their last great adventure — their ultimate chance to report a truly spectacular and spellbinding event in their annual Christmas letter. (Top that, Cousin Agnes, with her braggadocious letters about her trips to Branson every year with her grandson's family.)

If Bezos really wants good public relations, he should randomly choose a healthy octogenarian or nonagenarian to get a free seat every time he plans a free ticket.


Granted, he may want to make some modifications to improve the user experience for the aspiring seniornaut. I base these suggestions on my experiences with my own parents in the last few years. As we age, I've learned that comfort, reliability and routine are everything. Even car travel is a big deal when you're 80-plus, especially when "someone" — like your thoughtless youngest daughter — foolishly hands you their "dress cane" when you obviously need your all-weather "car cane."

But I digress. Here's a simple list of guidelines for accommodating seniornauts:

  • If one of the world's most successful CEOs has more money than NASA, he should be able to install a little Acorn to help grandmanauts and grandpanauts navigate the many steps into the rocket.
  • The rocket should have many conveniently located bathrooms, preferably with six-year-old Reader's Digests close by for reading material.
  • The one-piece spacesuit will have to be modified. If you've ever, in your life, tried to change out of a jumpsuit while balancing on one leg in a camper bathroom, you realize all-in-one garments are problematic even for the young and spry. Now factor in the fact that the wearer is 83 and has a couple of bulging discs and a bad hip, and you'll realize why a two-piece flight suit is essential.
  • Seniornauts need direct access to the captain's earpiece, which makes it easier to back-seat drive. "Watch it, Capt. Jaxton, before you sideswipe an asteroid! Do you think we're going to a fire?"
  • Rocket must include heated, massage-equipped Barcaloungers, from which seniornauts can comfortably catch up on the "Wheel of Fortunes" they missed because of space travel.
  • Ship should feature a flower on the antenna, just in case the captain needs to park on Mars and it could get mixed up with the numerous other corporate-owned spacecraft already parked there, including Elon Musk's Starship , Virgin's Galactic or Instagram's new ship, the Esteem Crusher.
  • As seniors like to go on bus tours, Bezos could easily make room for 30 to 40 seniors aboard the New Shepard. This way, the ship could stop to buy sweet corn and souvenir space rocks from Martians and get their photos taken next to the Moon's Largest Crater.

As a final precaution, the controls of the rocket's dashboard should be modified to look like those on a 1968 Town and Country station wagon. That way, if anything happens to the captain, the senior citizen can take the helm and park the rocket without too much difficulty.

For similar reasons, the communication system to Earth should be a harvest-gold land phone tethered to the wall with a cord, which has been repaired repeatedly with black electrical tape.

Boom. There it is.

Space-aged travel.

Tammy Swift can be reached at


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Tammy has been a storyteller most of her life. Before she learned the alphabet, she told stories by drawing pictures and then dictated the narrative to her ever-patient mother. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she has worked as a Dickinson, N.D., bureau reporter, a Bismarck Tribune feature writer/columnist, a Forum feature reporter, columnist and editor, a writer in NDSU's Publications Services, a marketing/social media specialist, an education associate in public broadcasting and a communications specialist at a nonprofit.
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