The quote often attributed to the actor is not verbatim, but the context and majority of its content is, for the most part, accurate.
Known for his role as Captain Kirk in the hit science fiction series “Star Trek,” William Shatner also became the oldest person to visit space for real in 2021. Of his time spent orbiting Earth, the 90-year-old Canadian actor described his "life-changing experience" in a personal essay written for The Guardian in 2022.
Excerpted quotes from the publication have been shared in various iterations across social media posts in the time since its initial publishing, including the below post on X shared on Dec. 23, 2022, which had been viewed more than 1.1 million times:
Please spend a minute reading this note from William Shatner, the actor from Star Trek:
“Last year, I had a life-changing experience at 90 years old. I went to space, after decades of playing an iconic science-fiction character who was exploring the universe... pic.twitter.com/SnjmCMOaDI
— Danijel Višević (@visevic) December 24, 2022
Though the context of the above attribution is accurate, the above post – and several others – paraphrased Shatner’s original essay, adding and omitting words and phrases. Because of this, we have rated this claim as Mostly True.
After he went to space on Oct. 13, 2021, aboard Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Shatner described his time above Earth in a Dec 7, 2022, article titled, “My trip to space made me realise we have only one Earth – it must live long and prosper.”
Last year, at the age of 90, I had a life-changing experience. I went to space, after decades of playing a science-fiction character who was exploring the universe and building connections with many diverse life forms and cultures. I thought I would experience a similar feeling: a feeling of deep connection with the immensity around us, a deep call for endless exploration. A call to indeed boldly go where no one had gone before.
I was absolutely wrong. As I explained in my latest book, what I felt was totally different. I knew that many before me had experienced a greater sense of care while contemplating our planet from above, because they were struck by the apparent fragility of this suspended blue marble. I felt that too. But the strongest feeling, dominating everything else by far, was the deepest grief that I had ever experienced.
While I was looking away from Earth, and turned towards the rest of the universe, I didn’t feel connection; I didn’t feel attraction. What I understood, in the clearest possible way, was that we were living on a tiny oasis of life, surrounded by an immensity of death. I didn’t see infinite possibilities of worlds to explore, of adventures to have, or living creatures to connect with. I saw the deepest darkness I could have ever imagined, contrasting starkly with the welcoming warmth of our nurturing home planet.
This was an immensely powerful awakening for me. It filled me with sadness. I realised that we had spent decades, if not centuries, being obsessed with looking away, with looking outside. I played my part in popularising the idea that space was the final frontier. But I had to get to space to understand that Earth is, and will remain, our only home. And that we have been ravaging it, relentlessly, making it uninhabitable.
The entirety of Shatner’s essay, which Snopes has archived, can be viewed here.