NASA Celebrates Gene Roddenberry On His 100th Birthday, Beams Quote Into Deep Space

NASA's Celebrating Gene Roddenberry: Star Trek's Bridge and NASA (Photo: NASA)

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 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.

Gene Roddenberry and the cast of <em>Star Trek</em> in front of NASA's Space Shuttle Enterprise (Photo: NASA)

Gene Roddenberry and the cast of Star Trek in front of NASA’s Space Shuttle Enterprise (Photo: NASA)

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 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.”

Title card for "It's going to be okay.", a comic by The Oatmeal telling the story of Gene Roddenberry's heroism during a plane crash in the Syrian desert in 1947. Read the full comic here and listen to Sci-Fi 5's retelling here.

Title card for “It’s going to be okay,” a comic by The Oatmeal telling the story of Gene Roddenberry’s heroism during a plane crash in the Syrian desert in 1947. Read the full comic here and listen to Sci-Fi 5’s retelling here.

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And the Great Bird Of The Galaxy takes flight into deep space where no man has gone before!

Star Trek’s special relationship with NASA has always given me warm feelings. Inspiration is important; the stories we tell ourselves as a culture help to guide us on the paths we follow. Please continue to inspire the spirit of exploration and the acceptance of many kinds of people, Star Trek!

The franchise is doing a great job with the latter part of that these days; not sure the same can be said of the former, sadly. But I think they’ll get there.


I’d say it’s doing both. I’ve had a few people who were not OG Trek fans tell me how Stamets and Tilly have gotten them inspired to want to go into engineering and with the things that Elon Musk is doing, they’re looking at that path vs the NASA path that we had. It may not be overt, but I think Trek still inspires. Probably will see more in SNW

Roddenberry’s reputation has taken its fair share of hits over the years, as fans came to understand that the creator of the franchise that spoke to their fondest hopes for the future didn’t always practice the enlightened values that he preached. Still, whatever his flaws as an artist and human being, in his public persona at least I never saw him do anything other than appeal to the best in people. I only wish I could say the same of our political and cultural leaders today.

Awesome, RIP, Great Bird !!!!!

In defense of Gene, it’s bizarre to me how a sizable subset of fans keep up this way out of date complaining that Rodenberry gets “ALL the credit for Star Trek” It’s like none of these fans have read any of the books/bios that have come out in the past twenty years which clearly cover all of his faults and issues. For example, just read The Fifty Year Mission, which paints a pretty negative picture of him in TNG years, as well as his womanizing in his earlier years.

The opinion that everyone gives him all the credit is way out of date, and I’ve noticed that some fans continually bring this topic up. Perhaps it’s time for them to drop all the animosity towards Gene and move on? Most of us fans know that GLC, Fontana, Jeffries, etc were all part of the team that made Trek great. These fans should catch up to us by getting caught up on their reading, and drop this mean-spirited, outdated grudge.

Totally agreed. Whatever the man’s faults (and, to hear people like Harlan Ellison tell it, you’d think we were talking about the worst person who ever lived), the constant harping on them has gotten old, as has the argument about none of his staff ever receiving proper credit, decades after the contributions of Gene Coon, Robert Justman, D.C. Fontana et al have received reams of documentation to set the story straight for anyone who cares about such things.

Well said!