Star Trek 50th Anniversary: The Enterprise's real-life impact on space exploration

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HOUSTON — It’s been 50 years since America first heard the words, “Space: the final frontier. These are the stories of the Starship Enterprise.”

Most NASA employees caught the space bug from watching man land on the moon or watching a shuttle launch. But as Star Trek turns 50, the dreams of what space exploration could be came from the Enterprise.

“The ideas and the feeling of what it is to discover new worlds and new civilizations and to ‘boldly go’ well that’s what we do at NASA, that’s your space program,” NASA Astronaut Mike Finke said.

The vision of Star Trek’s communicators inspired the earlier forms cell phones to be massed produced, but much of the science to make it happen was NASA.

“Cell phone technology and the miniaturization came from the moon program and other parts that we’ve done in space,” Finke said.

Another similarity between Kirk’s crew and today’s space program is the diversity.

“It had a crew of international people (and) we do that today with the International Space Station. We have Russians, Americans and people – except for Vulcans — we have 15 countries working together constructively, not destructively, showing the best of what humans can do,” Finke said.

Because even if we never master teleportation, working together towards a common mission, that’s the way to live long, and prosper.