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Utahns watch as ‘Capt. Kirk’ flies into space

SALT LAKE CITY — Looking into the night sky can often make you feel small.

For Patrick Wiggins, though, it’s when he feels the most alive.

All my life I have wanted to see what’s out there,” he said. “I want to explore. Galaxies, nebulae, there are all kinds of things to look at.”

Wiggins has dedicated his life to exploring.

He has discovered minor planets and supernovae, serves as NASA’s Solar System Ambassador to Utah and speaks to children at schools across the state.

Wiggins does a lot of his work at Stansbury Park Observatory.

“These are not your store-bought telescopes,” he said with a smile.

For all excitement about peering into the sky, though, Wiggins admits he felt a little jealous on Wednesday.

It’s also why he wore his “I want to go” shirt for this interview, because after seeing Captain Kirk go into space for real, Wiggins knows it’s now possible.

“I just want to get up there. Please,” he said with a laugh. “I want to see as he was saying today, the blue sky turning black. And seeing the curvature of the Earth. I mean, that has got to move you.”

It’s a feeling a lot of people had while watching William Shatner go up in that Blue Origin flight.

Wiggins is also excited about what that flight will mean for future exploration because of all the publicity it’s getting.

“It has brought space exploration into the fore,” he said.

He feels all that publicity might spark something in today’s kids.

At Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, lots of children were doing their own kind of discovery.

They were playing with hands-on displays, watching videos, and getting curious about what’s out there.

“Our whole mission is to inspire the wonder of the cosmos,” said Tim Glenn, who is an associate director at Clark Planetarium.

Although those children may not know who Captain Kirk is, there’s a good chance they’re hearing about Wednesday’s flight and why it was such a big deal.

“The impact he has had as a person on the culture, his role as Captain Kirk, and to see him in this sci-fi role, and go all the way full circle to actually be able to go to space, it’s really amazing when you think about it,” said Glenn.

Clark Planetarium can give you a sense of what exploring space is like, the Stansbury Park Observatory can show you what’s up there, but there’s nothing like going into space for real.

Shatner now knows that feeling.

Wiggins hopes to feel it one day.

“The Earth is the cradle of civilization, but we’re not supposed to stay in the cradle forever,” said Wiggins. “I want to get out of the cradle. I want to be up there.”

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