Earlier today, William Shatner joined an elite group of individuals as he was pinned as an astronaut by the owner of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos. At 90, he has the distinct honor of being the oldest person to travel to space. The man who portrayed the captain of one of the most iconic space travel stories in history going into space and officially being recognized as an astronaut is newsworthy on its own, but there is so much more to this story.

The crew of NS-18 from left to right: Dr. Chris Boshuizen, William Shatner, Audrey Powers, and Glen de Vries from BlueOrigin.com

In a pre-launch interview Dr. Chris ¬†Boshuizen, one of the astronauts on NS-18, spoke about how this is the beginning of a new era. In the interview, Dr. Boshuizen said, “The first 60 years of space exploration were the domain of governments, you know. You had to be a space super-power to send highly trained astronauts into space…I think in about 60 years we’ll look back at this year and go, ‘this is the year the doors finally opened for the human race to go to space'”.

In my personal life, I don’t really care if people with money use it to experience a flight into space. Would I spend that kind of money? Not likely. But as a businessperson, what we are doing now in this new space race is amazing. With high-profile individuals with the private companies reaching into space, the buzz about our abilities to send individuals into space is back in a way I haven’t seen since the height of the shuttle program. Companies are pushing the envelope in engineering and technology. With every flight, these companies learn something new. The drive to achieve something new pushes us to innovate. What we learn, and what we create, from this new push into space will have lasting effects on our society. Take, for example, that the NASA Technology Transfer Program has profiled over 2,000 commercial products that have been developed as spinoffs of space exploration. As another of the astronauts on NS-18 stated in the same interview, one of the goals of these flights is to “fuel this industry…and everybody benefit from the things that are coming, come [sic] out of space and space technology.”

This new frontier in space travel isn’t just a handful of the super-rich building rockets to send themselves into space. This is the new race to innovate and pioneer a new frontier by some of the top entrepreneurs in the world. We will all benefit from the advancements and innovations that result. And let’s be honest, being able to see Captain Kirk go into space is a bit incredible. It wasn’t until 3 years after William Shatner first appeared on television sets as Captain James T. Kirk that man would first set foot on the moon. Today, 55 years after he led the crew of the Enterprise, he crossed that final frontier. The experience was so moving for the actor that he was choked up while speaking with Bezos after the flight as he said, “What you have given me is the most profound experience I could ever imagine.”

William Shatner receives his astronaut wings from Jeff Bezos