News / Science & Technology

Star Trek Influence Lives Long and Prospers

Star Trek Influence Lives Long and Prospersi
May 23, 2013 3:51 PM
As the dazzling new sci-fi adventure Star Trek Into Darkness thrills theatergoers, academics, professionals and Star Trek fans alike are once again discussing the iconic franchise's influence on society, science and technology. VOA's Suzanne Presto in Washington has more.
Star Trek Influence Lives Long and Prospers
Suzanne Presto
Academics, professionals and Star Trek fans are once again discussing the iconic franchise's influence on society, science, and technology, as the dazzling new sci-fi adventure Star Trek Into Darkness plays in theaters.
The starship Enterprise is well-known to viewers of the iconic Star Trek TV series and visitors to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, where the original model is on display in the gift shop.  The fictional craft - whose long-running mission has been to explore the farthest reaches of "space, the final frontier" - even inspired the name of NASA's prototype space shuttle, said museum curator Margaret Weitekamp. 
"Well, the very first space shuttle was actually named Enterprise as a result of a write-in campaign orchestrated by Star Trek fans of the 1970s," she explained. 
Star Trek and Society
Weitekamp, who recently took part in a panel discussion at the museum about Star Trek's relevance, noted the television series began airing in the 1960s as women and minorities pressed for equal rights.  
"Star Trek has been a really important vision not only of what future spaceflight could look like, but also a reflection of what the hopes were, especially in the 1960s, for what human society could look like," she said.  "So, very importantly in 1966, it is a mixed-sex, racially integrated, multinational space crew that even includes an alien going out and really working together as equals."    
Star Trek Tech
Nancy Reagin, a professor at Pace University in New York and editor of the book "Star Trek and History", noted the show's creator, Gene Roddenberry, was a futurist.  She says some of Roddenberry's friends worked in technology development, and the original series showed technologies that have become reality.    
"You see the first depiction of a plasma-screen TV.  You see the first depiction of what I would call a cell phone.  I mean the communicators - they sort of flip open just like the first cell phone that I ever had," she explained.  "You see the first example of Bluetooth technology, where Uhura is wearing the little Bluetooth in her ear.  You see the first use of tablets, you know, where they are using multi-touch pads."
Star Trek still inspires engineers, said Mike Gold, corporate counsel at Bigelow Aerospace.  The Nevada-based company is developing next-generation spacecraft.
"I'd like to think that our entire program is again very much in keeping with the spirit of Star Trek, which is to push the boundaries for human exploration," he said.
The Bigelow Expander Activity Module will be tested on the International Space Station in 2015.  Gold notes its acronym, BEAM, harkens back to Star Trek characters' abilities to teleport or "beam" from one location to another. 
Continuing Relevance
Star Trek fans gathered at the Air and Space Museum in Washington and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City for a Google Hangout with the stars and writer of the newest movie, Star Trek Into Darkness.  Two astronauts at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and one on the International Space Station joined in to discuss Star Trek's appeal.
Astronaut Kjell Lindgren in Houston said it fires up the imagination.
"That's one of the real fun things about these movies and just science fiction in general: that opportunity to imagine what the future could be like and what technology is going to be like," he said.
Lindgren, a physician, said he would love to see a wand that could diagnose illnesses, similar to the medical tricorder seen on Star Trek.
Fellow astronaut Michael Fincke said researchers are testing a device called Microflow, which is designed to quickly assess astronauts' health.  Microflow is on the International Space Station now.    
"It uses these really tiny, little disposable cartridges and chips, and that same technology finds its way into the hospital room just a few years after we experiment with it," Fincke said. 
Astronaut Fincke, speaking from Johnson Space Center, added that Star Trek motivates him during tedious office meetings on Earth.   
"Then you think about some of the recent Star Trek episodes you've watched and you start to say, 'Yeah, that's inspirational.  That's why I'm here at NASA,'" he told fans.
Star Trek has been a part of popular culture for nearly 50 years and with yet another movie in the planning stages, it will continue to inspire people to think about space, the final frontier.  

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs