The crew of Discovery was hailed this morning by none other than William Shatner, who recited a customized version of the famous “Star Trek” opening monologue for the crew’s 3:23 a.m. wake-up call.
Shatner, who will forever be known as Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise, began with “Space, the final frontier” and continued to say, “These have been the voyages of the space shuttle Discovery. Her 30-year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before.”
As Discovery nears the end of her final mission, the only place she’ll be going – boldly or otherwise – is back to the Kennedy Space Center. Since 1984, Discovery has made 39 flights, including 13 trips to the International Space Station, and is one of only three shuttles still in operation.
Thanks to the vision of creator Gene Roddenberry, the “Star Trek” universe has done much to influence the advancement of space-related technology, and even the space program itself. By inventing a universe governed by a just and multicultural “Federation of Planets” and placing such charismatic characters as James Kirk at the forefront of exploration, Roddenberry offered a version of the future that was rich in hope and mass-appeal.
The continuation of the space program naturally led to questions of alien life and whether shuttle missions could lead to extraterrestrial contact. The “Star Trek” movie “First Contact” addresses the development of “warp” technology and the space program on Earth, and the initial interaction between humans and other species. In portraying alien races more like humans and less like hostile abductors, “Star Trek” dispelled some public fear of encountering aliens, making the various interstellar empires seem like a sort of space sorority Earth should be preparing to pledge, rather than fear.
In addition to the occasional alien encounter, the technology in “Star Trek” is just plain cool. Though – sadly – scientists haven’t yet perfected the transporter or replicator, some of “Star Trek’s” technology is a reality today.
Smartphones offer most features of tricorders, including apps similar to “Star Trek’s” “universal translator,” and iPhones and iPads would look right at home aboard a starship. Doctors continue to make new advancements in laser surgery, and the military has developed a prototype laser weapon not unlike the phaser.
The “Star Trek” series is evidence of both Gene Roddenberry’s vision and his understanding of humanity. By creating such a remarkable universe and daring the human race to learn, develop, and achieve in order to make it a reality, Roddenberry provided a great impetus for the development of space-related technology and fodder for dreams of exploring the stars.
Adam Rosenberg “William Shatner gives space shuttle Discovery crew a fitting send-off” Yahoo!
Corky Siemaszko “William Shatner, aka Capt. Kirk, surprises Discovery space shuttle crew with wake-up call” nydailynews.com
Jeff Bertolucci “Star Trek Tech We Use Today (Almost)” PCWorld.com