The Opportunity Rover has rolled onto the Mars surface at Meridiani Planum. Go here to check it out! I can’t wait to see what their first soil analysis shows, but even more I WANT to see more up close shots of those rocks!
Okay, I admit it. I’m a Trekkie. Have been since the first time I watched James T. Kirk swashbuckle his way across the Alpha Quadrant in 1967. Star Trek has been part of my life that long, and while I am not as much into it as some of the folks who make their own costumes and learn Klingon, Trek has informed much of my interest in space. I’ve mentioned before that my dad is the one who got me interested in the stars, and I’d have to say that Star Trek is what got me turned on to space travel in a big way. They just made it look so darned believable and like space travel is right around the corner for humanity. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t, but that enduring believability is one of Trek’s most wonderful contributions.
Mark and I have used various Star Trek actors over the years as planetarium show narrators. The first was Patrick Stewart and he’ll always be my favorite. His delivery and professionalism have always been first-rate and when I finally got to meet him during a session a few years ago, he was delightful. As much as I hate to look like a rank FanGrrl, his is one of the few Trek pictures I have in my office. It’s there to remind me to be professional and never do less than my best.
A few years ago we were in Los Angeles for a meeting, and I contacted a colleague of mine who was a writer for the Star Trek shows. We had worked together when I was editor of SkyWatch Magazine, and I had a small request: could Mark and I get a tour of one of the Trek sets? As it turned out, our friend was able to get us onto the sets of both Voyager and Deep Space 9. And we had a wonderful time! At one point we were walking along in the corridors of the Defiant and found the transporter pad. Of course we had to stand on it and WISH we could be transported out…
By far one of the more interesting experiences of that afternoon was the chance to watch as the actors and crew blocked out a scene for an upcoming DS9 episode. We stood with Quark (Armin Shimerman) and Rom (Max Grodenchuk) and chatted for awhile as the staffers were doing something to the set. I was just drinking it all in, thinking how cool it was to be there, and our friend told Armin and Max that I was an editor at Sky Publishing. They both turned to me and said, “Cool!” and we talked about astronomy for a while. It was one of those really neat experiences that I obviously have never forgotten.
For a few years while we lived in Denver, I used to do science talks at the Star Trek conventions, hosted by our friends Steve and Kathy Walker. Usually I’d talk about HST science or something like that. It was really quite an experience to be showing slides of distant nebulae to a roomful of Klingons in full battle gear. One of the highlights (for me anyway) of those lectures was the chance to have breakfast with the Trek guest speakers at the Sunday morning brunch. I got to meet a lot of interesting folks that way and listen to the way they talk (since I’ve always got an ear out for good narrators).
So Trek is in my blood, so to speak. I recognize full well the impact it’s had on our popular culture, and I’ve tried to use that impact in my writing and editing projects. One year we were able to feature the Enterprise-D on the front cover of SkyWatch and ran an article inside about star names and the Star Trek universe. Another time I had a writer interview some prominent folks about their interest in amateur astronomy. One of the subjects was Tim Russ, who played Tuvok on Voyager. I had met him at conference some months earlier and we chatted at some length about his interest in skygazing. (He also happens to be a fine musician.)
Those are a few vignettes out of a lifetime of fascination with the phenomenon that is Star Trek. I hope Trek is with us for a long time. Lots of us science types got a kick out of the show and you would be amazed at how many of us grew up watching Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Cisco, Archer, and their colleagues make their way among the stars we watch so eagerly from our earth-bound perches.