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Top 10 Best NASA Tributes to Star Trek of All-Time

NASA Space Shuttle Enterprise debut 1976 - Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, DeForest Kelley, and James Doohan 

Find out the best tributes NASA has done to Star Trek over the years. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration was formed in 1958 as an independent agency of the US government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Since it's inception it has been at the forefront of space exploration.

Eight years later, in 1966, the show Star Trek aired on American television. It gave a more realistic view of space exploration that had never been seen before.

The show, created by Gene Roddenberry, included references to NASA starting in the pilot episode. The first episode "The Cage" included photographs of NASA spacecraft as the Talosians examine the computer. While the pilot episode never aired until later NASA still showed up in the first season. The 20th episode "Court Martial" includes photographs of the Project Gemini capsule on a Titan II rocket.

Since then, many astronauts and NASA scientists have expressed their love and admiration of the series, spin-offs, and movies set in the universe of Star Trek. Here now are the most loving and inspiring tributes to Star Trek by NASA scientists, engineers, and astronauts.

1. Space Shuttle Enterprise


In 1974 NASA began construction of a new type of reusable spacecraft. It was designated "OV-101" and was planned to be unveiled on Constitution Day, September 17, 1976. The craft was supposed to be named "Constitution" in honor of the anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution

Star Trek fans saw an opportunity and launched a vigours letter-writing campaign to have the ship named after the spacecraft on the show the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701). The fans prevailed and President Gerald R. Ford directed the ship be renamed the Enterprise. When the ship debuted at Palmdale California on Sept. 17, 1976, several members of the show were on hand including creator Gene Roddenberry.

It's also rumored that the name of the orbiter type was renamed the "space shuttle" in honor of the small-spacecraft used on the show. Can't confirm it but it's a juicy tidbit.

​2.​ WORF


In 2010 NASA launched a new device on the International Space Station (ISS) named Window Observational Research Facility (WORF). It provides a "valuable resource for payloads and serves as a protectant for the observation window". The WORF shares the name of the alien Klingon officer WORF in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

At the top of the patch for the WORF writing in Klingon script spells out the acronym WORF. 
It's still in use today. 


3. Spock Ears


When NASA went to launch the Mariner V (Mariner 5 or Mariner Venus 1967) to Venus a few Trek fans made themselves known. Several scientists made pointy ears out of paper and stuck them on their ears while monitoring the.fly-by. 

The move was meant to honor the Enterprise's Human/Vulcan hybrid science officer Mr. Spock played by Leonard Nimoy. 


4. Nimoy Tribute


We've talked about how awesome Samantha Cristaforetti is but let's make it so. Back in 2015, we wrote about her epic cosplay honoring Captain Katheryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. She's an Italian European Space Agency astronaut stationed on ISS. Cristaforetti holds the record for the longest uninterrupted spaceflight of a European astronaut (199 days, 16 hours). She also had the record for the longest single space flight by a woman until Peggy Whitson broke the record several years later. She's the first Italian woman in space and the first person to brew an espresso in space. Cristaforetti is also the first person to cosplay in space. Going where nerds have never gone before.


After Leonard Nimoy passed away she posted a heartfelt tribute to him. She posted the picture of her giving the Vulcan salute, wearing Federation blue and wearing a Star Trek pin. She used the caption "Of all the souls I have encountered ... his was the most human." The line is from the tear-inducing scene in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan where Captain Kirk eulogized his friend Mr. Spock with those words.

Add another name of an astronaut who did a Nimoy tribute: Terry Virts. Virts On February 28, 2015, Virts tweeted an image from the International Space Station of Spock's Vulcan as it flew over Nimoy's hometown of Boston. Now that's some dedication.

5. Cameos

"Star Trek: The Next Generation" - Grade Palmer (Mae Jamison), Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton)

The love for NASA goes both ways. NASA has invited Trek actors to events for years and worked with TOS Uhura actor Nichelle Nichols to encourage women and ethnic minorities to join. 

In turn, NASA astronauts have been invited to appear on several of the series. The first was by Mae Jemison in 1993. Jemison is the first African-American woman to fly in space. She said she was inspired to become an astronaut from watching Lt. Uhura on television. "You gave me and others permission to be in the room," she told Nichols at a convention. Jemison appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Lt. Junior Grade Palmer, a transporter operator, in the episode "Second Chances."

The next episode with NASA astronauts is on Star Trek: Enterprise. Terry Virts played Ensign T. Virts along with fellow NASA astronaut Mike Fincke who played Lieutenant M. Fincke. They appeared in the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise in "These Are the Voyages…" in May 2005.
Star Trek: Enterprise - Terry Virts and Mike Fincke


6. Shuttle Endeavour Crew Photo

STS-54 crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour photo (Left to Right) Gregory J. Harbaugh, Mario Runco, Jr., John H. Casper, Susan J. Helms, and Donald R. McMonagle

It became a tradition at NASA to produce posters designed by Kennedy Space Center's graphics department. Beginning in 1999 with STS-96 they produced a crew and mission poster for each of the 42 missions. Later they began producing them for Space Flight Awareness, or SFA efforts.

They're all awesome and a few notable ones have Star Trek themes like The SFA poster for the ISS Expedition 21 crew.

Plus, the SFA poster for the STS-134 crew of Space Shuttle Endeavour.

But the greatest crew photo of all is from The STS-54 crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour dressed in Star Trek officer uniforms. John H. Casper, Donald R. McMonagle, Mario Runco, Jr., Gregory J. Harbaugh, and Susan J. Helms all dressed in costumes based on the costumes from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. While they're all amazing Runco's hair, ears and Vulcan greeting are what makes it awesome.

7.​ Wake Up with Star Trek

The Muppet Show - Captain Link Hogthrob (Jim Henson), First Mate Piggy (Frank Oz), and Dr. Julius Strangepork (Jerry Nelson)

Starting in 1963 NASA started waking astronauts up to music. The wake-ups are important because there aren't sunrises or sunsets in space and it can be disorientating. So they began the tradition of occasionally waking them from sleep using music. But NASA being NASA it's not just any old music. The songs are specifically chosen because of some personal connection with the crew.

"On board, the crew's eyes are opening, they are floating out of their sleeping bags, the world is in the window and they are listening to a song that's important them," Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield told Popular Mechanics, "For us, it's a chance to touch base with home."

The first song, a parody of "Hello Dolly", had great meaning and the tradition continued till 2011. Not surprisingly NASA threw in a few Star Trek references over the years.

In 1981 NASA asked Jim Henson and his team to record a special greeting based on their Star Trek parody "Pigs in Space" (aka Swinetrek) skit from "The Muppet Show". Then NASA took it up a notch.

Discovery's crew in 1989 woke up to the Star Trek theme for the first time along with a special message from Captain Kirk himself William Shatner. Because one Star Trek Captain isn't enough Patrick Stewart reprised his role as Captain Picard for his recorded message following the theme music of Star Trek - the Next Generation to the Space Shuttle Atlantis' crew in 1991.

The crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour woke to the song used in Star Trek: Enterprise's opening named "Where My Heart Will Take Me".

You can see a list of all the songs used to wake up astronauts in NASA's exhaustive list.


8.​ Gene Roddenberry Ashes


Roddenberry's death in 1991 shook Star Trek fans to the core. Nicknamed the "Great Bird of the Galaxy" his optimistic vision of the future drove the series and set the tone for decades.

When he died his widow, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, made a special request. She approached NASA administrator, Dan Goldin. She wanted him to fulfill Gene's dream of traveling in space. He approved her request and an "unofficial" flight. In 1992 NASA astronaut James Wathebee carried some of Roddenberry's ashes with him in orbit onboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Later, both Majel Barret's and James Doohan's remains were also approved to be carried into near orbit.


9.​ SPOC

STS-46 Mission Specialist Franklin R. Chang-Diaz works with GRiD "Compass" laptop on the mid-deck of Atlantis, Orbiter Vehicle 104.
Back in the day computers were big bulky things that took up a room. Eventually thanks to technology they got smaller. But, as shown in the movie Hidden Figures, before NASA used machines they used so-called "human computers" to perform important calculations. 

Star Trek's human-computer was the ever logical Mr. Spock. So it's fitting NASA named a computer after him. Back in 1983 a small computer, the precursor to today's laptops launched on Space Shuttle Columbia. NASA took a GRiD Compass, created by Bill Moggridge, and modified it for the weightless environment and used a custom operating system. The computer was code-named SPOC (Shuttle Portable On-Board Computer). An obvious reference to the Vulcan science officer. Live long and prosper.

​10.​ 50th Anniversary Video


On the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek NASA produced a massive video tribute to the series and its inspiration. 

"Star Trek has inspired many real-life explorers including NASA scientist, engineers and astronauts who often cite star trek as inspiring them to focus on space exploration from earth's largest federation of scientists, engineers and explorers we congratulate Star Trek on its 50th anniversary from the birthplace of 'V'ger' so from all of us here at NASA Headquarters as Star Trek continues to push the final frontiers of our imagination," The presenter says. "Happy 50th Star Trek."





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