In the last couple of blogs I found myself comparing the science and technology research being done on the International Space Station with what was considered science fiction not that long ago. And since Star Trek will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016, I got to wondering just how well Gene Rodenberry’s imagined universe foretold what came to be a half-century down the road.
The links between NASA’s Space Shuttle and Star Trek have been talked about (a lot) elsewhere. Everything from NASA naming its first Space Shuttle “Enterprise”, to Captain Kirk himself narrating a Star Trek-themed wakeup call to the crew of the final flight of Space Shuttle Discovery in 2011, to Star Trek’s Galileo Shuttlecraft now on permanent display at NASA’s Space Center in Houston.
So I’ll start with Star Trek versus the International Space Station.
ISS components were built on Earth and assembled entirely in orbit, as was the USS Enterprise (at least pre-Abrams?). Though little is mentioned about exactly how the Enterprise components got up there, Star Trek did have shuttlecraft specifically designed to transport people and materials to and from orbit.
And of course, NASA flew a fleet of Space Shuttles to and from Earth orbit for 30 years, which in turn enabled the assembly in orbit of the International Space Station.
Unlike the USS Enterprise, the ISS is not a starship, or even an interplanetary traveler. Rather it’s the predecessor to a Star Trek Space Station which, like ISS, was a stationary outpost where scientific research could be done (Regula I in “The Wrath of Kahn”, Deep Space Station K7 in “The Trouble with Tribbles”) or defensive monitoring duties could be performed (Deep Space 9) as well
And of course, a Space Station needs a captain, like Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space 9 or Dr. Carol Marcus on Regula I. Fortunately, the ISS has one of its own. Astronaut and Italian Air Force Captain Samantha Cristoforetti enjoyed “Earl Grey hot” from the new ISSpresso machine. No doubt her next assignment will be command of the USS Voyager, hopefully on one of its early shakedown missions.
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Images: NASA, Star Trek Images © 2015 CBS Studios Inc.