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Depending on your definition, William Shatner almost certainly is not the oldest person ever to go into space.

As an aside, count me among those people who wish that billionaires could find something more constructive to do with fortunes so vast they literally could not spend all of their money if they tried. In the early 20th century, our nation’s superrich men competed to see who could erect the tallest phallic object in New York City as untold millions around the world starved and died of disease, and today they launch phallic objects into space amid a global pandemic.

However, like millions of other lifelong “Star Trek” fans, I got a small kick from the sight of Shatner in his Blue Origins jacket – which had stitched on his right chest “W. SHATNER” and under it “AKA CAPT. JAMES T. KIRK” – gazing about the space capsule in open-eyed wonder and, back on Earth, gushing emotionally about the experience.

And at 90 years old, Shatner certainly is older than any astronaut, cosmonaut or wealthy space tourist Earth’s various government space agencies or billionaires have sent into space.

It’s just a little arrogant to assume no older person, anywhere, ever went into space.

My quibble here is with the definition of “person.”

Many who remember “Star Trek” probably also remember astronomer and exobiologist Carl Sagan on his show “Cosmos” discussing the odds of life developing elsewhere in the universe, particularly intelligent life reaching a technologically advanced stage. (If you don’t remember or never saw it, you can find it online at https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x271be)

To summarize, even at the time that was recorded in 1980, astronomers estimated there could be 400 billion stars just in the Milky Way, and Sagan conservatively estimated that perhaps one-quarter had planets, most of those having more than one planet. If conditions for life are rare or the odds of intelligent life are low, there could be just a handful of civilizations in the entire galaxy, or even none other than ours – but if the chances are better, there could be thousands or millions.

And there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe.

If we met intelligent extraterrestrials, and instead of trying to kill us they treated us as peers, would we not begin to refer to them as a people? Or any one of them a person?

And what if some of them have longer life spans than we do?

It’s conceivable that there are or have been dozens of planets where intelligent life developed and advanced technologically to the point of at least limited space exploration, and that at least one of them sent someone into space who has lived longer than Shatner.

So all we can accurately say is that Shatner is the oldest human to travel into space – that we know of.

After all, there’s also the whole topic of humans secretly abducted by aliens …

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