The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free of NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) during one of five free flights carried out at the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, Calif., in 1977 as part of the Shuttle program's Approach and Landing Tests (ALT). The tests were conducted to verify orbiter aerodynamics and handling characteristics in preparation for orbital flights with the Space Shuttle Columbia. A tail cone over the main engine area of Enterprise smoothed out turbulent airflow during flight. It was removed on the two last free flights to accurately check approach and landing characteristics. September 26, 1977 NASA Photo

Star Trek and NASA: Celebrating the Connection


Aug 19, 2021

In this image, the then Dryden Flight Research Center (now Armstrong) hosted the Star Trek crew in 1976 for the rollout of Space Shuttle Enterprise posing with the  cast is then NASA Administrator James Fletcher and show creator, Gene Roddenberry.

Gene Roddenberry would have been 100 years old on Aug. 19, 2021, and we at NASA celebrate his legacy. As creator of the legendary Star Trek saga, Roddenberry’s vision continues to resonate.

In the documentary “NASA on the Edge of Forever: Science in Space,” host NASA astronaut Victor Glover stated, “Science and Star Trek go hand-in-hand.” The film explores how for the past 55 years, Star Trek has influenced scientists, engineers, and even astronauts to reach beyond. While the International Space Station doesn’t speed through the galaxy like the Starship Enterprise, much of the research conducted aboard the orbiting facility is making the fiction of Star Trek come a little closer to reality. 

In this image, the then Dryden Flight Research Center (now Armstrong) hosted the Star Trek crew in 1976 for the rollout of space shuttle Enterprise. In front, from left: NASA Administrator James Fletcher, and the show’s stars DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, show creator Gene Roddenberry, and Walter Koenig.


Image Credit: NASALast Updated: Aug 19, 2021Editor: Yvette Smith

4.3 6 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
August 20, 2021 2:38 am

NASA on the Edge of Forever: Chasing Funding

In this image…

You need Geordi La Forge’s visor to see it, apparently.

Ron Long
August 20, 2021 2:53 am

I have previously encouraged persons to visit the NASA exhibit at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and I reiterate. When you enter mill around in the external exhibits, then board the bus for the launching pad tour and stop at the Saturn 5 rocket exhibit hall, they have a Saturn 5 rocket mounted horizontally above your head, this is the most powerful machine ever constructed. Maybe eat lunch here, then return via the bus to the main zone and attend the Space Shuttle Atlantis presentation, something you will never forget, then go through the souvenir shop and buy hats and t-shirts to reinforce the memory. Star Trek? My strongest memory is Jim saying “beam me up Scotty, there’s no intelligent life on this planet”.

Art Slartibartfast
Reply to  Ron Long
August 20, 2021 3:53 am

“verry funny, Scotty, now beam down my clothes!”

Reply to  Ron Long
August 20, 2021 5:13 am

When I was about 8-9 years old, we toured KSC. It was a year or so before the first Saturn V launch. The assembly building and tractor for hauling the rocket out to the launch pad were awesome.

JSC, south of Houston, is also worth the trip. Been there twice, once in 1981 and back in 2004.

Star Trek + NASA = Why I am a scientist.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 20, 2021 6:36 am

`Seeing the rocket engines in the real world, up close and personal is a staggering blow with reality.

Pictures and Star Trek TV utterly fail to place the shuttle and launch engines into proper human perspective. Their actual size, fuel consumption and energy output are just shockingly staggering.

Ron Long
Reply to  ATheoK
August 20, 2021 7:31 am


Ron Long
Reply to  David Middleton
August 20, 2021 7:32 am

David, if you are ever near Orlando or Cape Canaveral please tour the NASA exhibit, you won’t be sorry, and will continue to be a (good) scientist.

Reply to  Ron Long
August 20, 2021 10:19 am

They have another Saturn V on display in Huntsville, AL as well. That’s the one they used for the shake tests.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Ron Long
August 20, 2021 4:40 pm

For our honeymoon, my wife and I took back-to-back Caribbean cruises, one East bound, one West bound. We stayed on the same ship which was home-berthed at Canaveral, and we had a layover just long enough to take a quick tour. The size of the Saturn 5 is just beyond description when you are live and in person. Just shows what you can do with determination and a slide rule!

August 20, 2021 3:16 am

“Star Trek has influenced scientists, engineers, and even astronauts to reach beyond”, plus communication experts. When the Star Trek TV series was written the idea of having a personal communications device was simply science fiction, now it’s a reality as almost everyone has a smart phone. Did Star Trek give rise to a dream which led to today’s communication technology I don’t know but it’s quite possible.

Punta Gorda
Reply to  RexAlan
August 20, 2021 3:29 am

NASA isn’t worthy of Roddenberry’s vision. Cheap ass imitators

Alan the Brit
Reply to  RexAlan
August 20, 2021 3:31 am

I recall in the 1980s you could get a mobile phone with a clicky flip up lid just like the Star Trek communicators, I was ever so jealous!!!

Reply to  Alan the Brit
August 20, 2021 3:51 am

Me too.

Reply to  RexAlan
August 20, 2021 3:58 am

As I only had a brick analog mobile phone in those days.

Reply to  Alan the Brit
August 20, 2021 4:08 am

Yes, those early flip open mobile phones were witness to influence of the Star Trek communicator.

For me it is obvious that the dream planted in the heads of my generation was what led to mobile phones.

I remember as a child thinking how cool those communicators were but how it was obviously impossible and could never really be made work.

Mind you , even today you depend on a ton of terrestrial infrastructure to communicate from a smart phone or mobile device, which would not be available to Spock and Scotty beamed down onto an alien planet surface.

Still some way to go for a hand held device to transmit to an orbiting spaceship.

Bob Hoye
Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2021 6:51 am

In the 1940s, Dick Tracy had a two-way radio on his wrist.

Reply to  Bob Hoye
August 20, 2021 8:42 am
Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  David Middleton
August 20, 2021 9:47 am

But a shoe phone with a rotary dial… now that’s classic! Even high heel phones for the fashion conscious 60’s woman. And you could even call it a Smart phone.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 20, 2021 10:06 am

Ed Sullivan had a really big shoe, but I don’t think it doubled as a phone.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
August 31, 2021 2:40 pm

I see what you did there.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 21, 2021 8:00 am

And now “Big Tech” is using the cone of silence to mute all dissent!

Gunga Din
Reply to  Bob Hoye
August 21, 2021 7:51 am

I was just about to mention that!
They also had some kind of space ship. I forget what they called it. (Moon Shuttle?) It a cylinder with one end rounded and one end flat. It had these things shaped like plungers sticking of it and bent toward the flat end. It’s propulsion was supposed to be magnetic (or gravitational attraction?), I think. I the plungers would be pointed at the Moon and pull it in it’s direction.

Reply to  Gunga Din
August 21, 2021 1:42 pm

Diet Smith (Dick Tracy’s millionaire industrialist inventor/friend) created the magnetic space coupe).
“The nation that controls magnetism will control the universe”

Ron Long
Reply to  Alan the Brit
August 20, 2021 9:24 am

How about the phasers? I want one of them to use instead of pepper spray.

Reply to  Alan the Brit
August 20, 2021 8:37 pm

I’m still using my flip phone, Alan. They’re great! I can ignore it AND my land line.

But if Captain Kirk ever calls, I will pick up.

Reply to  RexAlan
August 20, 2021 6:18 am

They also had the concept of talking to computers as an interface other than pushing buttons. Of course many SF writers had that same idea. Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced us to data pads, and of course we all have iPads and/or tablet computers now.

Reply to  RexAlan
August 20, 2021 10:20 am

Walkie talkies and primitive radio phones were already in existence in the 60’s.
The idea that having a communication device that wasn’t tied to a wire would be a good thing, pre-dates Star Trek.

August 20, 2021 3:30 am

too bad that the recent Star Trek films/shows have turned into s#!t Why didn’t they just stick with the formula that made it so successful? :/

Reply to  herb
August 20, 2021 3:41 am

The Star Trek genre was very much Martin Luther King with its outlook on people, races species etc.

Now it has to incorporate identity politics which just happens to be the antithesis of MLK’s philosophy.

Star Trek Discovery killed it off

Reply to  fretslider
August 20, 2021 4:10 am

Never heard of Star Trek Discovery. I guess that proves your point.

Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2021 5:02 am

Take my advice, keep it that way.

Bryan A
Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2021 9:37 am

It requires a subscription

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2021 10:01 am

Star Trek Discovery goes Full Woke at Warp 9. Gender benders, questioning genders, gay love story lines, lesbian love affairs, and except for a brief few 2nd season shows where they had strong white male leader character in Captain Pike, all the white males in Discovery are beta male incompetents, gay, or space aliens.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 20, 2021 5:13 pm

You’re kidding, right? It sounds like a Babylon Bee send up.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
August 21, 2021 3:03 am

In other words it reflects the modern life which proceeds unnoticed by Watts readers (who are represented in the series as Orion pirates…)

Discovery is brilliant: it truly reflects the original Star Trek/Starfleet ethos.

Gunga Din
Reply to  griff
August 21, 2021 8:08 am

Ever read “Captains Log”? (I think it’s also a website.)
It sometimes gets into some of the reasons why certain episodes were written in the Star Trek series.
Sometimes they were not written to entertain or to reflect modern life but to influence it.

Reply to  griff
August 21, 2021 2:35 pm

Yes, modern life ripe with mental disorders, genital mutilations and affront to science with claims xx/xy is a social construct.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Ruleo
August 22, 2021 9:43 am

They “follow science” (unless it’s biology).

alastair gray
Reply to  fretslider
August 20, 2021 1:37 pm

I loved original Star TRek but never could get into the later shows. Maybe just getting older but I think they definitely last their edge.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  herb
August 20, 2021 4:35 am

Get woke, go broke – soon to disappear.

Star Trek First Generation broadcast started at the same time as my nuclear power school was dismissed for the day. The old wooden school building thundered as we ran for the TV lounge. Not so much any more — I’m two decades TV free.

August 20, 2021 4:00 am

Gene Roddenberry was responsible for us having mobile phones. He’s got a lot to answer for !!

Alan the Brit
Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2021 4:54 am

It’s not the technology that is at fault, it’s the idiots who use them who are the problem, as is always the case, that is why so many manufacturers have to put so many caveats & warnings on things they make, like “Do not use in the shower or bath!” on electrical items for instance!!! You cannot legislate for stupidity!!!

Bill Powers
Reply to  Alan the Brit
August 20, 2021 7:00 am

You need to blame the lawyers for that last bit. Henry VI Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2 “The first thing we must do is kill all the lawyers”

My thought is, it would be best to let the manufacturers produce products without warnings and thin the herd of those who spent science class Tweeting, tiktoking, and posting selfies to Instagram.

Reply to  Bill Powers
August 20, 2021 8:47 pm


Bryan A
Reply to  Greg
August 20, 2021 9:40 am

And I-pads
And Transparent Aluminum ALON
I’m still waiting for the Transporters and replicators

Tom Abbott
August 20, 2021 5:20 am

NASA is getting on the right track now. They are contracting out more and more of their space hardware to private contractors.

That’s the future: Private Enterprise in space.

NASA’s job now should be to enable this to happen as soon as possible.

There are now plans to put a space station around the Moon and a base on the Moon, and there are several groups getting ready to put demonstration solar power satellite tech in orbit, and other groups are planning on putting artificial gravity (centifugal force) habitats in orbit..

The only important thing absent right now from my point of view is development of an orbital transfer vehicle that can reach all points in the Earth/Moon system. The James Webb telescope might need an astronaut tuneup sometime. Maybe sometime soon. Time’s awastin’, NASA.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 20, 2021 6:22 am

The future could well be

Weyland Yutani Building better worlds

Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 20, 2021 6:52 am

Government contractors are not visionaries leading technology.

They are contracted to achieve government employee desires. Said contractors seek to maximize and extend their contracts to maximize earnings for the contracting company.

Contractors tend to be reluctant to continue previous research. Instead they prefer performing new expensive research often duplicates previous work.

Research and conclusions are guaranteed to be built along lines that can be built by the contracting company’s partners or subsidiaries, no matter how poor that solution may be.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 20, 2021 10:28 am

One interesting idea is a lunar shuttle. Basically it’s a space ship that is in an orbit that continually goes from the Earth to the Moon and back. (Think of Apollo 13’s free return trajectory)
At each end, smaller ships shuttle people and material between the surface larger craft.

This way the larger craft never has to waste energy slowing down to achieve orbit, or speeding up to break orbit.

This would also be possible between the Earth and Mars, should we ever get that far.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  MarkW
August 20, 2021 8:26 pm

G’Day MarkW

“This would also be possible between the Earth and Mars, should we ever get that far.”

That would be ‘fun’, at the times the orbits of the two planets place them on opposite sides of the sun.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  MarkW
August 21, 2021 5:55 am

Buzz Aldrin, figured out how to put a vehicle into an orbit that constantly cycles between the Earth and Mars with little expenditure of propellant after reaching the initial orbit. The vehicle constantly swings past both Earth and Mars and as it comes close, astronauts can use an orbital transfer vehicle to meet up with it and transfer crew and cargo.

We could put more than one of these vehicles in these orbits and time them to pass by the Earth every few months, depending on how many of them we used.

We should also add shielding and artificial gravity to these habitation modules to protect the astronauts health. A short Moon trip would not require this degree of protection.

In the future, a few International Space Station habitat modules are going to be decomissioned and destroyed by plunging them back into the Earth’s atmosphere.

I would like to suggest that they save these habitation modules and use at least two of them to demonstrate artificial gravity in orbit.

They can do so by putting a habitation module on each end of a mile-long cable, and then rotating the modules around their common center at a rate of one revolution per minute, and this will produce artificial gravity (centrifugal force) in the habitation modules, equal to the pull of gravity on the surface of the Earth.

The formula is: 1+1=1 (One mile in diameter, plus One revolution per minute, equals One Earth-equivalent “gravity”. To get an idea of how fast you would be travelling in a circle, think of yourself sitting on the end of a second hand of an analog clock that is swinging around a clockface that is one mile in diameter.

We should use this type of configuration for our Cycling Space Stations (as Buzz Aldrin calls them) that will be traveling between Earth and Mars.

Musk wants to “brute force” this crossing to Mars, with huge expenditures of propellants, but I think Cycling Space Stations are a much better way to go. Much safer, and much more economical.

We should not throw away our decommissioned habitat modules because they can still be useful, especially since they are already in orbit. We should demonstrate artificial gravity with them and plan on using this configuration for our Mars trips.

The Russians are talking about building a nuclear-powered orbital transfer vehicle that can range all the way to Mars.

The U.S. needs an orbital transfer vehicle.

I guess Musk plans on using that huge Starship as his orbital transfer vehicle. Bezos complained about NASA giving the contract to Musk and I read yesterday that NASA is reconsidering.

Btw, Musk corrected some information about his heavy-lift vehicle. It was reported earlier that it could put 170 tons into low-Earth orbit. Musk says its capacity is about 150 tons to LEO.

Musk also says it will take about eight launches of his heavy-lift vehicle to put enough propellant into low-Earth orbit to fill up his Starship vehicle, and then he will fly to the Moon and land on it, and then return, using that amount of propellant.

Bezos says his plan to do the same thing is much less complicated, and now NASA is looking at both plans again.

Bezos does have a simpler plan. Fewer launches involved. But, Musk is getting it done in everything he is doing. He’s building a good track record. That has to count for something.

I’m good with either choice. Let’s just get to the Moon ASAP! 🙂

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 21, 2021 9:13 pm

G’Day Tom,

“Buzz Aldrin, figured out how to put a vehicle into an orbit that constantly cycles between the Earth and Mars…”

I’m having difficulty visualizing such an orbit. I searched (DuckDuckGo) and the only ‘hits’ were your earlier comments here at WUWT. When you were asked for a reference you suggested the “Buzz Aldrin website”. There’s quite a number of them. Checked several page titles that seemed appropriate – no joy. Also noted that there is a newsletter – just how many past issues?

Could you be more specific please. A URL if you can.

It was about 65 years ago that I learned what caused the apparent retrograde motion of Mars, against the ‘fixed’ stars in the background. Read more recently: a manned expedition launched at a near conjunction would have to wait 18 months for the next conjunction for its return. I’m assuming that a minimal fuel expenditure orbit would involve a ‘sling shot’ maneuver around each planet in turn.

Peter Fraser
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 20, 2021 6:01 pm

Are you sure outside contractors are the answer? Once again NASA has delayed its next moon visit for a year, 2025 now, because the contractor developing the spacesuits will not have them ready in time.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Peter Fraser
August 21, 2021 6:10 am

I’m sure *some* outside contractors are the answer. The trick is to find some good ones. I think we have a couple of very good contractors in Musk and Bezos. And there are a lot of other enterprising folks working on space projects, too.

We just need to find the groundbreakers and give them funding.

Musk has offered to take over the development of NASA’s new spacesuits. NASA should give him the contract.

Kevin kilty
August 20, 2021 7:21 am

Star Trek may have been good entertainment, but it did a lot of damage to science and engineering by promoting a lot of magical thinking and pandering to stereotypes. Just sayin’

August 20, 2021 9:28 am

The pilot of the modified 747 in that picture was Fitz Fulton.

I was honored to work with him at Scaled Composites in the early 80s.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Rob_Dawg
August 21, 2021 6:12 am

That was pretty amazing watching the 747 carrying the Space Shuttle on its back. We were all on pins and needles!

alastair gray
August 20, 2021 1:34 pm

Thank goodness Gavin Schmidt and the lamentable terrestrial work of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences did not appear on this althoughgh maybe trhey inspired such luminaries as AOC and St Greta. I’ll stick to the inspirational Star Trek as a motivator od youth. Wouldnt it be nice if there were something inspirational for the kids of today although if the powers that be are intent on foisting on us unremitting green austerity it would be hypocritical in the extreme to promise them anything other than short harsh and brutal in teh future

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  alastair gray
August 22, 2021 10:24 am

Since you are mentioning the original Star Trek as a youth motivator, which it no doubt was, or is, I’ll just mention that I see the immediate Star Trek sequel series (the “Next Generation” series), as a kind of step down in this sense! There is even a connection with Global Warming alarmism, unfortunately! Notice, I’m not sure that all of the other sequel series have been as bad, though I’ve never watched much of the most recent ones.

Rather than try to describe the relevant Star Trek: the Next Generation episode myself, I’ll just throw out a link: This link goes to a review by someone who is apparently a huge fan of Global Warming alarm — such a concerned citizen — but who is *also* no fan at all of the ‘anti Warp Drive’ alarmism created in the reviewed episode! Such is the belief in real world ‘anti fuel’ alarmism, that the obvious irony here is totally lost, I suppose.

Another problem with the STNG series that impressed itself on me, is that some of the episodes specifically mentioned that money is no longer used in the Federation society in the future? So in that sense it could get to be kind of like Ian Banks’ “Culture” series of sci fi novels. That is to say, society in the future would supposedly be a kind of “libertarian socialism” with no money needed? In other words, people just wouldn’t keep track of value ‘score’ anymore, as it is assumed that everything of value could just be pushed out of replicator boxes for free.

In such a society, maybe they would no longer even have ‘play money’ board games and such, who knows? In the real world, of course, there are always resources, products and services that fall outside of what can be provided for free, and that people therefore need to keep track of, with, er, “money”. Also, the replicative commons that we all partake in, the biosphere, has thoughtfully provided us with fossil fuels as such. These are actually the concentrated ‘by products’ of plants and animals that have collected solar energy over vast spans of space and time — and the biosphere even provides the free oxygen for easily burning the fuels as well!

If only we could persuade the youth of the world to accept the free stuff that actually works, and to reject unfounded guilt trips over that, *then* we’d really be advancing the dream of a better society that was at the heart of the original Star Trek.

August 21, 2021 2:36 pm

Why are writers hailed as heroes?

mario lento
August 21, 2021 9:02 pm

I went to a William Shatner stand up at a local casino here in Norther CA several years ago when he told a story of how NASA invited him to go into a simulator. He described a situation where they simulated a space flight for him and asked him to look out one of the small windows. He saw a US Enterprise fly by and the crew cheered on… and treated him as if he were the real deal… It was a great story.

Verified by MonsterInsights