|The Mercury Seven (1961)|
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Star Trek share a long history together. As early as March 15, 1967, Leonard Nimoy was invited to be a guest of honor at the Goddard Memorial Dinner put on by the National Space Club (Shatner had been invited, but was forced to decline due to a movie commitment). The other guests of honor were Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Mercury astronaut John Glenn, and NASA administrator James E. Webb. Over the course of the series, a number of cast and crew members were invited to attend rocket launches and tour NASA facilities.
|The roll-out of the space shuttle Enterprise (1976)|
Perhaps most famously, after the series was cancelled, a group of Star Trek fans successfully petitioned President Gerald Ford to rename the first shuttle orbiter Enterprise (it had originally been named the Constitution, in honor of the 1976 bicentennial). Around the same time, NASA invited Nichelle Nichols to become a recruiter for the space program, after she criticized the agency for failing to reach out to women and minorities in a speech entitled 'Space, What's In It For Me?' As an astronaut recruiter, Nichols worked to correct this problem, and "her efforts resulted in NASA’s selection of five women, three African American men, and an Asian American."
Among that group was Mae Jemison, who became the first African-American woman in space on board the space shuttle Endeavor in 1992. Jemison later made a cameo appearance on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1993, becoming the first real-life astronaut to appear in the franchise.
|Mae Jemison on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993)|
Our public relations people tell us it is likely that they can get the astronaut Shepard to play some minor role on our show, plus give us some associated publicity, which could be of advantage to STAR TREK. He is for some reason unable to accept pay, but in lieu would like us to film a one-minute spot for his favorite charity.
So we can give some kind of answer to this, can you prepare an estimate of what a one-minute spot would cost us? Or, probably, a couple of estimates so that we could determine how simple or complex we could agree to, the relative cost of color and black and white, etc.Perhaps the "public relations people" had overestimated their abilities. For whatever reason, Shepard's appearance didn't make it beyond the idea stage. However, a week later, the production tried again, this time going for NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter. In a July 12, 1966 letter to Art Wilcox, however, Carpenter graciously declined:
You proposed in your letter of June 24, 1966, a very fascinating experience for me. Unfortunately, that experience poses two or three unresolvable conflicts. I wish it were not so. Perhaps at a later date such a thing could be arranged. I must say you honor me almost out of my boots with such an idea. Thank you very much.
|Shepard in the credits of Enterprise (2001)|
Images courtesy of Trek Core and NASA.
Thanks to Dave Eversole for sending me this image.
The Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection (1964-1969)