Posted by: L.J. Popp | June 27, 2013

Did Star Trek Really Inspire the Space Age?

So as a sci-fi geek who grew up watching The Next Generation, I faithfully went to see the new Star Trek movie last week.  It got me thinking: Did Star Trek really inspire the nation to pursue space travel, as so many fans claim? Perhaps. But I’m not convinced that the same people who devour the TV series and novels and conventions are nuclear physicists, astronomers, or rocket scientists. Seems like most of the people who like Star Trek are ordinary engineers, teachers, software developers, and other lower-level geeks. (Like me. I’m a teacher, my mom’s a teacher, and my dad’s an aviation inspector. Go figure.) The higher-level geeks (the heads of NASA and huge innovative science-tech companies) are too busy reading Einstein and Steven Hawking (his non-pop stuff) and getting their PhDs and being guest lecturers at universities to mess with fiction. At most, the lower-level geeks funded their research by being inspired by Star Trek. (Or at least the majority of the American public didn’t have a fit when they saw the government spending on NASA.)

Here’s an idea. Maybe it was the other way around. Instead of inspiring a generation, maybe it made us complacent. Maybe we were satisfied with our star fantasy and therefore didn’t need to seriously pursue it as a reality. What we want is the adventure, the thrill, the Wild-West. The truth is, space just isn’t that interesting. Sure, there might be stuff out there, but its way out there. Way, way, WAY out there, as in millions of light-years. The stuff in the middle is just, well, SPACE. The thing that’s in between STUFF. We’d much rather spend 99 cents out in cyber SPACE on an ebook entitled Star Trek than 9 trillion dollars to actually trek to the STUFF.

Thoughts, anyone? I’d love to hear some higher-level geeks negate my thesis. For once, I’d like to be wrong.



  1. I am a Star Trek fan through my dad, so my knowledge is limited, but I don’t completely agree. I think finding something out there would be wonderful, but I think part of the excitement of space travel is just getting off our planet. I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually see the whole planet as a ball in the midst of space (and not just through technology, but through a window). I think the opening to Star Trek is right, a big part of the thrill is going where no man has gone before – even if it is just a wide open space:)

    • Good point! Thanks for sharing!

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