The Amazing Ways Star Trek Has Shaped The Real World

Captain James T Kirk, NCC-1701, Nyota Uhura, Original Enterprise, Star Trek The Original Series, USS Enterprise Lineage -

The Amazing Ways Star Trek Has Shaped The Real World


 Star Trek is a franchise that was based mainly on science and involved space travel and aliens. The Star Trek television series was originally produced in 1966, the 66th year of the 20th century.

Yes, Star Trek began 55 years ago!

It was created by Gene Roddenberry who is sometimes referred to as “the great bird of the galaxy”.

Star Trek was set in the 23rd century and accentuated the voyages of the starship USS Enterprise.

After its first run in the year 1966, Star Trek become a huge phenomenon and sensation, eventually resulting in a number of TV series, sequels, spin-offs, game productions, stand-alone movies, animated series, and even amazing comic books and novels!

The show lasted for three seasons, that is, it was aired from the year 1966 until 1969 before it was discontinued and canceled.

The reason for its discontinuation was in part because of the budget and funding issues in the production of the third season. This caused an obvious drop in the quality of its episodes.

Nevertheless, after being canceled and going into syndication the popularity of the TV series skyrocketed.

From 1966 down to this present century, it is safe to say that this large franchise has influenced our lives in so many ways both in the terms of culture and technology.


Now, this franchise as said earlier, is based on space travel and aliens, but included a whole lot of other aspects and characteristics as well.

The series had incredibly influenced the interest of the public concerning the United States Space Program and education pertaining to the topic of space exploration.

Star Trek: The Original Series which ran from 1966 to 1969 profited and reaped from the popularity of the televised Apollo 11 moon landing.

The coalition between Star Trek and NASA grew stronger over time.

On September 17, 1976,  the Space Shuttle Enterprise, was built for NASA as part of the Space Shuttle program to perform atmospheric test flights after being launched from a modified Boeing 747.

It was NASA's first orbiter of the space shuttle system and was named after the USS Enterprise of Star Trek. This was in response to 'Star Trek's fans staging a write-in campaign’.

Initially, NASA had planned to call the first space shuttle the Constitution.

On a side note, because this craft was not constructed with engines or a functional heat shield, it was not designated to fly in space.

Space Shuttle Enterprise

The IXS Enterprise, a conceptual interstellar spaceship designed by a NASA scientist Dr. Harold G. Whitewhich was  NASA's ideational design for a superluminal (faster-than-light) spacecraft and was likewise named after the USS Enterprise in the year 2014.

IXS Enterprise

This camaraderie remained strong and substantial throughout the 1990s, when many of the Star Trek cast members began to narrate documentaries relating to the franchise's content and space exploration.

Some of these documentaries were produced in cooperation with NASA itself.

The narration of the film Destiny in Space which was an IMAX production that included footage shot by astronauts as they repaired the Hubble Space Telescope was narrated by Leonard Nimoy.

Also, numerous astronauts had said Star Trek inspired them to want to go into space.

Dr. Edward Weiler, a former chief scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, had said the show made him want to study science.

In 2013, NASA had produced a thirty second advertisement to accompany the theatrical release of Star Trek: Into Darkness with an effort to strengthen and bolster its support for its space program.

In addition to all of this, NASA has also named quite a number of asteroids after the people and elements that are related or connected to the Star Trek franchise. 

  • 2309 Mr. Spock was named after Leonard Nimoy.
  • 4659 Roddenberry was named after Gene Roddenberry.
  • 7307 Takei was named after George Takei.
  • 9777 Enterprise was named after the USS Enterprise.
  • 26733 Nanavisitor was named after Nana Visitor who played Kira Nerys in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
  • 26734 Terry Farrell was named after Terry Farrell who played Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
  • 68410 Nichols was named after Nichelle Nichols.
  • 155142 Tenagra was named after an island-continent on Shantil III. This is where the mythos historical figures Darmok and Jalad once faced a common enemy, known as the beast of Tanagra. [The Next Generation: Darmok]

Several years later, a space tourism company Virgin Galactic named one of its envisioned spacecraft VSS Enterprise, after the Tv series.

The spacecraft was built in the year 2004 by Scaled Composites. It was the first space plane of the Spaceship Two which was also be called SS2.

It was taken on several in-atmospheric tests in preparation for eventually bringing it and other prototypes into space.

The VSS Enterprise was destroyed however, on 31st October 2014 as a result of a catastrophic in-flight breakup during a test flight. It crashed in the Mojave Desert near Cantil, California. The Co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed and pilot Peter Siebold was seriously injured.

The NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] later concluded that the in-flight breakup was caused by the co-pilot's premature and sudden unlocking of the air brake device utilized for atmospheric re-entry. 

The National Transportation Safety Board said other important factors in the accident were the inadequate design safeguards, poor pilot training, and lack of strict and stringent oversight by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration].

In summary, the in-flight breakup was caused by a flaw in the design and pilot error.

Also, according to fan site Memory Alpha a few real-life astronauts have appeared on the Star Trek series over the years.

One of them is Mae Jemison, an American physician, and astronaut who holds the unique distinction of being the first real astronaut that had appeared in a Star Trek series.

She was the first African-American woman to fly in space aboard the shuttle Endeavor.

She also appeared on the 1993 sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the episode ‘Second Chances’ as a Lieutenant junior grade named Palmer.

She was a good friend of Nichelle Nichols who had played the part of Nyota Uhura.  She had paid Mae Jemison a visit on the set while filming the episode ‘Second Chances' and she also served as the science mission consultant on the STS-47 Spacelab J flight, which was launched on 12th September 1992.

While in space during STS-47, Mae Jemison had begun each shift with Mission Control by saying Uhura's famous line “Hailing frequencies are open.”

She again, happened to appear in the television documentaries Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond in the year 1996 and How William Shatner Changed the World in the year 2005.

Other astronauts such as E. Mike Fincke and Terry Virts, followed and also appeared on the series finale of ‘Enterprise’ in the year 2005. They were characterized as 22nd-century engineers who performed maintenance and supervision in the Enterprise's engine room.

Although none of the regular actors on Star Trek has flown in space, many of them have recorded and taped corroboratory and supportive messages for NASA.

An example of such is Nichelle Nichols.

Nichelle Nichols recorded a video message and even flew on NASA's SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) aircraft in 2015.

Now, William Shatner's recent experience in space was quite a remarkable one as described by him.
On Oct. 13, 2021, he went to space for real aboard a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket owned by Jeff Bezos.
At the age of ninety, he is currently the oldest person to travel to space.
He was above for over eleven minutes but those few minutes were a period that, in his words, forever changed him.
“My time in space was the most profound experience I could have ever imagined,” William Shatner had said in a statement.
“Documenting my journey will give a dramatic view of that experience, and my hope is that it inspires the world to see we must go to space to save Earth.”

When asked by TIME concerning his transformation after coming back from space, he responded “Yes I was. I was so besotted by what happened on that flight. It moved me to tears, so much so that I couldn’t control my emotions for 15 to 20 minutes.”

Although the experience in Blue Origin rocket wasn’t quite as fast as what Captain Kirk experienced during his years in Star Trek, the speed clearly left a strong impression on William Shatner. And clearly, it wasn’t too much for him, despite being the oldest person ever launched into space.
Describing his experience in the atmosphere, he said, “Space travel, in three words, is ‘you go fast.’”
Regardless, his trip was an enjoyable one and a whole new experience for him.

“I hope I never recover from this,” William Shatner had said following his touchdown in the company of three civilian crew mates.

After the death of Nimoy in February 2015, a tweet was sent out by NASA with the sole aim of honoring the actor.
The tweet had said, “RIP Leonard Nimoy. So many of us at NASA were inspired by Star Trek. Boldly go.”

In commendation and recognition of the way Star Trek had inspired numerous individuals around the globe, NASA awarded its Distinguished Public Service Medal posthumously to Gene Roddenberry.

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