May 7, 2020
NASA Honors The Original Space Cowboy, James T. Kirk
Captain James T. Kirk boldly went where no man had gone before, piloting the USS Enterprise on a five year mission, exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new civilizations. But does he really deserve the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest civilian award possible from NASA?
Let’s face it, Kirk has broken the Prime Directive more times than we can count – introducing weapons to the inhabitants of Neural, vaccinating children and pulling the plug on the computer that controls society over on Beta III. Not to mention his various flings with space-ladies. We here at Happy are all in favor of getting your groove on with space-ladies, but we didn’t know NASA was so liberal about that kind of fraternization.
And, don’t even get us started on that whole misunderstanding about the Genesis Device that ended the peace that was finally reached at the Galactic conference. C’mon NASA, if we’re gonna start honoring our future heroes do we really need to start with such a controversial…
Ahem. It has been brought to our attention that NASA is not actually honoring Captain James T. Kirk and that, in fact, Kirk is not a future hero, but a fictional character. Crap. This really puts a damper on Spock’s nomination for the Nobel Prize in physics. And, someone better let that Commander who tried to serve on the Whitewater jury know that she isn’t actually a commander.
It’s cool. We can still make this work. At the same time NASA began a real life race to the moon, NBC launched a show that began a movement. “Star Trek” depicted the possibilities of space travel, romanticized in the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk —and William Shatner went right along for the ride, bringing not only pseudo-Shakespearean overtones to the rugged Kirk, but also just a little bit of himself to the role of the starship captain. Also the most distinctive lurching start/stop way of speaking ever.
Shatner’s role on the series put him in a position to bring attention to NASA’s own mission: to actually explore space, which is an actual good thing humans do.
And, for fifty years, that is exactly what Shatner has done. He has regularly done voice over work for NASA documentaries, including their preview to the Mars’ Curiosity rover mission.
Unlike Star Wars, Star Trek is almost exclusively about exploration and discovery. The reason the characters are in space is explicitly scientific. The series is a fictional culmination of the actual NASA mission statement, the possibilities of pursuing a goal that at times seems trivial in the face of the more immediate problems facing our society. James T. Kirk and the characters that inhabit the Star Trek universe inspire scientists around the world.
And, if after all that, you wanna argue that Shatner’s iconic embodiment of James T. Kirk didn’t inspire millions of explorers around the world to pursue the sciences, we are not even hearing that. Get back to us after you’ve narrated some rover mission documentaries, and then you can argue about it.