For many of us, Star Trek wasn’t just a show. Star Trek was tolerance and intelligence and morality and science and exploration. Take a poll of today’s scientists, engineers, and astronauts, and I’d be willing to bet a majority of them were influenced by Star Trek in some way.
After Leonard Nimoy passed away this week, those inspired by the man and the character he portrayed on Star Trek have been coming out with tributes to their favorite science officer. But there may be no better salute to how Nimoy helped urge young scientists and engineers into the final frontier than Terry W. Virts‘, taken aboard the International Space Station on Friday:
NASA has always recognized the galvanizing power of Star Trek. Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura alongside Nimoy’s Spock, later became a recruiter for NASA. She toured the country encouraging diversity in astronaut applicants. Among those who listened were Charles Bolden, the current NASA administrator, and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.
And in 1976, NASA revealed the space shuttle “Enterprise,” which was supposed to be called “Constitution” if not for a write-in campaign from Star Trek fans.
The huge and hugely positive influence of Star Trek, the unyielding call of space exploration, a vision of the final frontier…all of it is summed up in Virts’ touching salute to a departed hero. Fascinating.