On what would have been his 100th birthday, Gene Roddenberry and the legacy he left behind were celebrated in a special event hosted by NASA and Roddenberry Entertainment. In addition to the panel that debuted on NASA TV live, an inspirational quote from Gene himself was sent into deep space.
Sending Gene’s words into deep space
During opening remarks, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson spoke about the parallels between the diversity, spirit of exploration, and inspiration portrayed in Star Trek and seen in the work that NASA does. To celebrate this, NASA sent one of Gene Roddenberry’s many inspirational quotes out into deep space, where it might be picked up by any of the diversity that is almost certainly out there. The quote will be sent out using NASA’s Deep Space Network, an international array of giant radio antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions:
The whole show was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate but to take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.
For fun, check out eyes.nasa.gov to see what the Deep Space Network is broadcasting in real time, to what instrument, and from which antenna.
“Celebrating Gene Roddenberry” NASA Live panel
Gene’s son Rod Roddenberry hosted an hour-long panel discussion with Trek alums and NASA employees to talk about how the legacy of Star Trek has inspired NASA to explore the cosmos and send humans into space. Rod was joined by George Takei (Sulu: TOS) and NASA panelists: Director of the office of Communication and Public Engagement at Kennedy Space Center Hortense Diggs, Europa Clipper Flight Systems Engineer Tracy Drain, astronaut Jonny Kim, and Mars 2020 Guidance and Controls Operations Lead Swati Mohan.
The discussion, officially titled “Celebrating Gene Roddenberry: Star Trek’s Bridge and NASA,” touched on what inspires each of the panelists in their lives and careers as space explorers, how they got to where they are today, and the parallels between Gene Roddenberry’s vision for space exploration and the future of humanity and the goals and aspirations of NASA. The full panel can be seen on YouTube.
A long history of Trek at NASA
Of course, this is far from the first time the US space agency has had official dealings with the world of Star Trek. The first-ever Space Shuttle (which never flew in space but was used as a test vehicle) was famously named Enterprise after a campaign by Star Trek fans to change it from the original name, Constitution. After the cancellation of the original series, Nichelle Nichols was employed by NASA to help recruit women and people of color into the agency, which she did to great effect into the 1980s. Many NASA employees and contractors will tell you they were inspired to go into their field—be it science, engineering, medicine, craftsmanship—by Star Trek, and the agency’s ties to the franchise have held strong since the Apollo era.
More centennial celebrations from across the web
Celebratory words filled our social media feeds yesterday from folks celebrating Gene Roddenberry from all over the world. NASA’s officially twitter was also in on the action, as you’d expect.
In @StarTrek, Gene Roddenberry showed a future where individuals from different backgrounds work together to explore, something we strive to do today with you. Join us in celebrating his 100th birthday by posting a Vulcan salute selfie tagged #Roddenberry100. 🖖 pic.twitter.com/jDAVpzJkiH
— NASA (@NASA) August 18, 2021
In addition, Roddenberry Entertainment celebrated in a number of ways beyond the NASA panel. Yesterday, it was revealed that a new Gene Roddenberry biopic is in the works. Sci-Fi 5, a Roddenberry Podcast that delivers five-minute episodes all about science fiction history, also released a special episode commemorating the day: a dramatic retelling of the story of Gene’s plan crash in 1947 in the Syrian desert, originally written for The Oatmeal webcomic entitled “It’s going to be okay.”