Star Trek Celebrations

We can’t have a birthday without cake!

Star Trek Celebrations

Star Trek got lots of birthday wishes and presents. Lucky Star Trek!

Last Saturday, Pacific Opera Project had a special performance of their outer space production of Mozart’s tale of kidnapping, the Abduction from the Seraglio.

Mozart's "Abduction from the Seraglio" has been set in the Star Trek universe by the Pacific Opera Project.
Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” has been set in the Star Trek universe by the Pacific Opera Project.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra will be playing the Star Trek Ultimate Voyage concert as part of the Melbourne Festival this October. This is the concert little Puffles and Honey attended in Houston.

Unbelievable!!!!!, a feature-length sci-fi parody of the franchise, premiered in Hollywood on Wednesday, in what organizers described as possibly one of the largest historic gatherings of former Star Trek actors.

The movie follows the exploits of four astronauts — one of whom is an animatronic marionette resembling Kirk — who travel to the moon to rescue missing comrades.

Around 28 former actors from the five series and two of the films hit the red carpet for Unbelievable!!!!!, including Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura in the original series, and Walter Koenig, who was navigation officer Pavel Chekov.

Star Trek Celebrations

The Unbelievable!!!!! cast includes Chase Masterson, Garrett Wang, Tim Russ, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Dina Meyer, Olivia D’Abo, Julie Warner, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Robert Picardo, Nana Visitor, Linda Park, Armin Shimerman, Connor Trinneer, Jeffrey Combs, John Billingsley, BarBara Luna, Brenda Bakke, Gary Graham, Crystal Allen, McKenzie Westmore, Dominic Keating, Manu Intiraymi, Gary Lockwood, Celeste Yarnall, Anthony Montgomery, Michael Forest, Vaughn Armstrong, Max Grodenchik, Beverly Washburn, Jack Donner, Casey Biggs, Patti Yasutake, Steve Rankin, Michael Dante, Jasmine Anthony, Menina Fortunato, Sean Kenney, Bobby Clark, and Gilbert Gottfried, Michael Madsen, Angelique Fawcette, Katarina Van Derham.

NASA scientists, engineers and astronauts often cite Star Trek as inspiring them to pursue careers in their fields. In the late 1970s, Nichelle Nichols worked with NASA to recruit women and minorities for the first group of space shuttle-era astronaut candidates. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy added their voices to NASA’s outreach efforts, narrating documentaries and speaking in support of the agency’s exploration efforts.

Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols

Today, NASA is turning science fiction into reality. Humans now live and work in space full time on the International Space Station. Scientists are exploring potentially life-harboring worlds in our solar system, while discovering thousands of new planets orbiting distance stars. NASA continues its goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030’s.

So NASA knows a LOT about Star Trek. How much do Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto know about science and NASA?!?

NASA gave Star Trek a really cool present 😎 In honour of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, an Enterprise icon was used to show where the International Space Station was on the world map in Mission Control.

Star Trek Celebrations

A few astronauts have appeared on Star Trek. Mike Fincke and Terry Virts, who during their careers have both lived and worked on the International Space Station, appeared on Star Trek: Enterprise in the episode “These Are the Voyages…” which aired in May 2005.

Star Trek Celebrations

The first astronaut to appear on the Starship Enterprise did so in a 1993 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek Celebrations

Mae Jemison, who a year earlier became the first African-American woman in space as a crew member aboard the shuttle Endeavour, appeared as Lieutenant Palmer in the episode “Second Chances”. A fan of Star Trek (she started her daily shifts in orbit by radioing down to Earth, “Hailing frequencies open!”), Jemison was invited to appear on the show by actor LeVar Burton, after he learned of her being inspired by Nichelle Nichols as a young girl.

Dr Mae Jemison and Nichelle Nichols on set
Dr Mae Jemison and Nichelle Nichols on set

Another fan is using Star Trek to facilitate difficult conversations about today’s society and contemporary issues. James Smalls, Professor of Art History at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, teaches ART 329-07 – Roaming the Star Trek Universe. The course explores the Star Trek Universe of science fiction television to probe critical issues of race, gender and alternate forms of sexuality in today’s world. The stories and characters of Star Trek can teach students (and not just students) many things about today’s complex world. As a persuasive tool in imagining the possibilities of the future, Star Trek has the power and pull to immerse the individual completely through stories and characters that give meaning and purpose to our collective sense of identity and existence.

Douglas S. Bigham, Assistant Professor of Linguistics at San Diego State University, College of Arts & Letters, teaches LING 243 – Invented Languages: Klingon & Beyond. Prof Bigham is a huge Star Trek fan and wanted to teach this course because he wanted a way to engage students in linguistics without having to actually teach them linguistics. He wanted a pop-culture back road into linguistics. Klingon was purposefully designed by Marc Okrand in order to sound like a language that you wouldn’t find on Earth, it was designed to sound alien. It violates all of the linguistic rules of Earth languages, and by looking at how it violates them the course can look at what those universals might be for human languages, and why they might be there to begin with.

Klingon has been an object of various discussions and research through the years. Many claim to actually speak it, and spend years and years learning it (like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory 🙂 ). The course offered by Prof Bigham does not actually teach students to speak Klingon, it uses invented languages as a vehicle to discuss current ideas about linguistic theory, especially ideas surrounding the interaction of language and society.

Linda Wetzel, Associate Professor at Georgetown University, Department of Philosophy, teaches PHIL-180 – Philosophy and Star Trek. The class is taught as an introduction to metaphysics and epistemology philosophy, but these topics are discussed as philosophical issues arise when the show’s cast ventures into places “where no man has gone before”. In addition to watching episodes of Star Trek, the class also reads philosophical writings and wrestles with such questions as “Is time travel possible?” and “Could reality be radically different from what ‘we’ think?”

Mary Jo Weaver, Professor Emerita at Indiana University, Bloomington, Department of Religious Studies, teaches a course titled Star Trek and Religion, a combination of popular culture, theories of religion, cosmology, and spirituality.

But the best of all is Trek Class, now on offer to the public, for free and independent from Syracuse University, where the course was available to enrolled students only.

The course first started as a part of iSchool, where Professor Anthony Rotolo initially focused on connecting depictions of technology in Star Trek with the realities of technology in the 21st Century. For students, the class is designed to spark an interest in the STEM disciplines. Prof Rotolo decided to expand the course when it became offered as a part of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Prof. Rotolo presents a special session of #TrekClass at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX
Prof. Rotolo presents a special session of #TrekClass at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston

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