News / Science & Technology

Star Trek Influence Lives Long and Prospers

Star Trek Influence Lives Long and Prospersi
X
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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs