The Geology of Star Trek’s Strange New Worlds (Part I) 316 words

The episode of “The Man Trap” was set in a desert.

In “The Man Trap”, the 1st episode of Star Trek aired on television, the starship Enterprise went to an archaeological excavation site on the planet M-113. The planet was enclosed by a desert with little vegetation and the remnants of a former civilization. The atmosphere is seemingly breathable by humanoids, a plot device used in a number of later episodes.

In the 3rd episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the crew of the Enterprise is stuck on the planet Delta Vega, a planet like Earth except it had a somewhat smaller size, with a lithium cracking station functioning there. 

In many episodes of the original Star Trek series, the Enterprise searches the geology of numerous planets, sometimes occupied by humanoids or alien lifeforms. The class of planets in the Star Trek universe is grounded on size, composition, geological activity, atmosphere, and includes over 13 planet types.

Discovering Planets

For instance, planets fit for humans, small, rocky worlds with geological activity and oxygen-atmosphere, are categorized as M after Minshara, the native name of Vulcan, home of Commander Spock. Aboard the Enterprise, Spock can simply scan and categorize a planet. 

In the real world, the first exoplanet was found in January 1992 and today over 3,600 planets in other star systems are known. However, we can only guess about the environment discovered on an exoplanet. The shape of the orbit can be utilized to estimate the mass of an exoplanet. 

Therefore, even if the category system in Star Trek is fictional, true science might adopt a similar one. M-class planets are well-known in the Star Trek universe. In the real world, it is only a couple of rocky planets that may host liquid water, a critical ingredient of life. Desert planets are the most visited by the crew, a plot scheme to limit the costs of the set. 

 

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NASA Orbiter Spots ‘Star Trek’ Symbol on Mars

Mars, the red planet.

It might be time to hail Starfleet and see if they’ve set up a station on Mars.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter got an image of an odd chevron on the Martian surface that appears to be the symbol for “Star Trek’s” Starfleet, an association of diplomacy, space exploration, research, defense, and peacekeeping.

The Red Planet

The shapes were discovered in the southeast Hellas Planitia part of Mars, made by dunes, wind, and lava. At some time in Martian history, crescent-shaped dunes were in the setting. An eruption had lava spilling out, going around the dunes but not covering them. As the lava cooled, the dunes erected like islands.

But they were still dunes. So, the wind can move them and the dunes more or less migrated. Their footprints, referred to as “dune casts,” were left behind in the lava field.

So, it’s not an alien habitat or Starfleet base, unless the UFP has some to say. 

William Shatner, the actor who played Captain James Kirk on “Star Trek,” also had a little fun with it, calling out Star Wars that Star Trek appeared on the red planet first.

The dune was made by lava flows and wind long ago on Mars when the lava solidified, and the wind formed it.

Eventually, the sand piles that were the dunes drifted away, leaving “footprints” in the lava plain. These are referred to as “dune casts” and noted the presence of dunes that were encompassed by lava.

The dune on Mars is not the only Star Trek reference recently seen in space.

A real-life “Planet Vulcan” was seen years away from Earth. The planet is linked with the real-life star 40 Eridani A, a star that was linked to Vulcan in the books Star Trek Maps by Jeff Maynard (Bantam, 1980) and Star Trek 2 by James Blish (Bantam, 1968).

Live long and prosper.

 

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What ‘Star Trek’ May Have Right—and Wrong—About Alien Life (Part II)

Amino acids can travel to Earth by hitching a ride with an asteroid. 

Supporters of this theory argue that life on Earth might have been planted by hardy microbes. Or at least, by raw elements like amino acid that traveled here with asteroids and comets. While there is no exact evidence to back up this claim, missions like the Rosetta orbiter have discovered the building blocks of existence on comets. There are tough organisms like tardigrades that can live unprotected in space.

Also, scientists think that early Earth was showered by meteors, which could have provided a “starter kit” for life from somewhere else in the galaxy.

Building on the panspermia concept, Star Trek proposed that an early humanoid life-form deliberately seeded worlds around the Milky Way, producing new species that took on their basic shape. While every one of these species might have split off on its own path, they are all basically long-lost relatives. Star Trek is somewhat right about practically everything.

While there is a case for panspermia, odds are slim that we’ll face humanoid life-forms in the real universe. Some speculations suggest that local ecological conditions and evolutionary events left to chance will probably shape the future of any life-form, making it absolutely unique.

It’s a Small Galaxy?

Instead, with the only example available, some researchers propose that the most typical form of life across the galaxy might be what’s most plentiful here on Earth: microbes.

On Earth, it just a somewhat short period for life to emerge and have the ability to photosynthesize. However, it took years for animals to emerge. Technical civilization and intelligence have only been present for about 0.000001% of Earth’s past. What this says is that our planet’s history has been ruled by a vast array of microscopic life.

Also, there’s a good chance that the elementary molecular building blocks we see on our planet will be mutual throughout the universe.

 

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What ‘Star Trek’ May Have Right—and Wrong—About Alien Life (Part I)

 

Over a great 50-year history, Star Trek TV films and shows have introduced audiences to some of the most well-known fictional aliens. Be they Cardassians, Klingons, Vulcans, or tribbles, the Trek universe brims with diverse and distinct extraterrestrials.

For now, these exotic civilizations are in the realm of science fiction. However, scientists have lots of ideas about what real alien life may be like and what the chances are of ever finding out if we’re alone in the universe.

In the past couple of decades, scientists have produced very sensitive equipment to search for other livable worlds and to hunt for greetings from across the cosmos. To date, astronomers have discovered more than 3,000 planets beyond our solar system. They estimate that many more remain undiscovered.

Water keeps us alive.

Even more exciting, a few planets have been discovered that seem to be in the habitable zone. This means the area around a star where the temp is perfect for liquid water to survive on a planetary surface. Water is the main ingredient for life as we know it. Its presence appears to have driven biological development right from the beginning.

Spreading Seeds

If we ever do discover aliens, would they be like those beings that are on Star Trek? While the show writers have envisioned some very unique creatures, from non-corporeal energy beings to intellectual clouds, most aliens met by the Enterprise crew have been carbon-based life-forms that are all too frequently human beings.

The incredible similarity between humans and the show’s most well-known aliens, such as Vulcans, Romulans, and Andorians, has been a spot of contention with numerous fans over the years. In Star Trek: TNG, the staff writers tried to explain this lack of biological diversity using a true scientific theory referred to as panspermia.

 

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Star Trek: History & Effect on Space Technology (Part III)

Fans enjoyed seeing Star Trek on the big screen.

Star Trek Films

The series was shortly revived as an animated series in 1973-74. Roddenberry started creating a new series, “Star Trek: Phase II,” in 1975. Those sketches were altered after the success of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Star Wars.” Instead, the scripts were expanded and became “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”

“Star Trek” continues on the big screen as well thanks to Paramount. The Original Series came back to Hollywood with a restart of the original characters of Spock, Kirk, and McCoy and the rest of the original crew. The 2009 film “Star Trek” was a success and has so far generated three other films: “Star Trek: Into Darkness” (2013), “Star Trek Beyond” (2016) and a film in 2019.

Franchise Impact on Real-Life Space Exploration

Possibly the most eminent example of the series’ impact on real-life took place in the 70s. The United States was planning to run test flights of the space shuttle program using a prototype vehicle named the Constitution. 

In response, millions of Star Trek fans had a write-in campaign to NASA and the White House asking for the prototype shuttle to be called the Enterprise. When Enterprise was revealed in 1976, most of the main cast was on hand. However, the Enterprise was not built to fly in space.

Years later, space tourism company Virgin Galactic called one of its planned spacecraft VSS Enterprise, after the television show. Built-in 2004, the spacecraft did numerous in-atmosphere tests in preparation for ultimately bringing it and other archetypes into space. However, the VSS Enterprise was wrecked in 2014 during a crash that slain one pilot and injured another. 

The National Transport Safety Board later stated that a distinct “feathering” system intended to slow down the spacecraft as it was in the upper atmosphere — positioned early and was the main reason for the crash.

 

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Star Trek: History & Effect on Space Technology (Part V)

Cell phones are a part of daily communication. 

Star Trek Tech

Also, many early “Star Trek” technologies have gotten into our everyday lives. Communicators are today known as cell phones which link people to each other through satellite. Tricorders, which were utilized to get medical information, are now referred to as MRIs. Ironically, some of which are being built for space. 

Though, human teleportation still stumps us, not to mention faster-than-light warp drive. In 2015, NASA toned down many reports that a “faster-than-light” propulsion product they were creating was on the verge of a breakthrough. Meanwhile, teleportation has only been accomplished on the quantum scale across a couple of miles.

The franchise mostly trails the adventures of crews on the USS Enterprise, though some repetitions took detours on ships or space stations. Humanity is just one of a huge number of alien species partaking in a quasi-military organization called Starfleet, whose key objective is to explore the universe for scientific purposes. 

Star Trek Franchise

Also, Star Trek has created a diverse fan base, some of whom have made a number of episode productions for themselves. Conventions keep on attracting hundreds of fans who are anxious to rub elbows with writers, actors, and other folks who worked on the many films and series. The franchise commemorated its 50th anniversary in 2016 and continues to live long and prosper.

The secret to its success is its commitment to scientific fact. Several authors have noted the series’ reality-based astronomy and prescient technology. In Star Trek: The Official Guide to our Universe, one Star Trek author and blogger explains that unlike most sci-fi movies and shows, this franchise has continuously rooted the innate human urge to study in plausible science, offering a hopeful pathway to a likely human future that’s not too far away.

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Star Trek: History & Effect on Space Technology (Part IV)

 

A couple of astronauts have appeared on Star Trek over the years. Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to fly in space, was on the 1993 episode of TNG’s “Second Chances.” 

She was visited on the set by Nichelle Nichols. While in space, Jemison allegedly started her shifts with Mission Control by reciting Uhura’s famous line: “Hailing frequencies are open.” Astronauts Terry Virts and Mike Fincke were on the series finale of “Enterprise” in 2005. They were 22nd-century engineers who did maintenance in the Enterprise’s engine room.

None of the Star Trek actors have actually ever been to outer space.

Star Trek Actors and Space 

Even though no Star Trek regular actor has flown in space, many of them have recorded supportive messages for NASA, including Nichols and Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher on TNG). Nichols not only recorded a video message but also flew on NASA’s SOFIA aircraft in 2015. 

Actors on Star Trek have talked with real astronauts on social media (Twitter), most extraordinarily early in Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s International Space Station mission in 2012-13 when he spoke with Shatner, Nimoy, Wheaton, and George Takei. Shatner asked: “Are you tweeting from space?” Hadfield replied to this question, “Yes, Captain. And we’re discovering signs of life from the surface.” 

After Nimoy died in February 2015, NASA sent out a tweet toasting the actor: “RIP Leonard Nimoy. So many of us at NASA were encouraged by Star Trek. Boldly go …” Virts took a photo of the Vulcan hand sign in orbit. The pic he beamed back to Earth, fortunately, showed his hand over Boston, Nimoy’s birthplace. But Virts said he really didn’t mean to do it. When he received the news about Nimoy’s death he had just a couple of minutes to fulfill his idea before going to a demanding task on the station.

 

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Generally, the original series spawned six motion pictures between ‘79 and ’91. There was also a partial appearance by a few members of the original crew in a ‘94 movie.

The franchise’s new success ultimately led to the creation of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-94), which was set a number of years after the original series, with a modern USS Enterprise led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard. This generation of “Star Trek” dealt with numerous social issues as well including gender and torture, as well as racism. It continues to be one of the most well-liked series to this day. Also, TNG ultimately moved into theaters, with four movies between 1994-2002.

The crew appeared in a space station.

Roddenberry Legacy

Roddenberry died in 1991. While TNG was still on the air, a different series, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1993-1999) aired. The show told of the exploits of a crew on a space station instead of the conventional starship. In recent years, the show has been acknowledged for its groundbreaking approach to cable television. The storylines of individual episodes were closely connected to each other, making it perfect for today’s binge-viewing generations.

Other series followed and are still on television to this day. “Star Trek: Voyager” (1995-2001) told of the exploits of a crew that was marooned light-years from home, helmed by the franchise’s first main female captain, Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew). Enterprise (2001-2005) was a prelude to the events of the original series. Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) captained the first warp-drive-able Enterprise. 

In 2017, “Star Trek Discovery” debuted on CBS All Access, earning good positive attention for its alternate universe plots, its use of swear words and its dealing with same-sex relationships. The series was renewed for a 2nd season. CBS is thinking about creating around four new Star Trek series for limited or extended runs.

 

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Star Trek: History & Effect on Space Technology (Part I)

 

Since viewers first overheard “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” “Star Trek” has epitomized the hope of what space, “the final frontier,” can signify for humanity in a couple of centuries. First airing in ‘66, the show was a phenomenon, generating films, spinoff TV series, books and games, and influencing technology and culture.

It was similar to NASA’s protocol for microbial life.

Starfleet is an arm of the United Federation of Planets, which has a stringent rule about messing with the growth of more primitive species. This “prime directive” sounds akin to NASA’s planetary protection protocols for worlds that might have microbial life.

General franchise history and overview

“Star Trek” was crafted by Gene Roddenberry, a WWII veteran pilot who started writing freelance scripts while serving as a police officer in Los Angeles. It’s well known that NBC executives didn’t like the first pilot. 

They said the show didn’t have enough action and was nerdy for viewers. Though, they gave Roddenberry a chance for a second pilot. Except for Spock, an alien from the planet Vulcan, the cast was totally switched out for a different crew, led by Capt. James T. Kirk.

“Star Trek” first aired in ‘66. The series tells of the adventures of the USS Enterprise on a five-year mission to “explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.”  Filled with social themes of the era, several of the storylines were metaphors about problems with the world in the 60s including war & peace, race, and the generation gap. 

The show was canceled just three years into the mission due to ratings. Syndicated reruns of the series started soon after, though, and kept the series alive in the minds of fans. Millions of fans attended the first “Star Trek” convention in ‘72. 

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Star Trek Exists in the Same Universe as Marvel Comics

Star Trek and Marvel mesh. 

When nerds make films, beautiful things can occur. In this case, the notion that MCU producer Kevin Feige is a huge fan of Star Trek IV led to an appearance that now puts a character from The Voyage Home into Spider-Man: Homecoming. Earth will never be the same.

There is a scene in the last Spider-Man film where the web-slinger is chilling on a Queens rooftop and a guy who runs a hot dog cart below shouts at him to “do a flip!” Spiderman does it. Next to that hot dog vendor is another guy with a boombox and he is a familiar face.

According to StarTrek.com, that is none other than Kirk Thatcher, the due on the bus who Spock nerve pinches when he won’t turn his music down on San Francisco public transit. 

Seemingly, the whole cameo appearance, from inception-to-filming took just two days. Thatcher said that Feige was a huge fan of Star Trek IV and really loved the bus scene. So, he was anxious to bring the character back years later.

The events of Star Trek now exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

At some point, the Punk on Bus got weary of San Francisco and headed for Queens. Everything is linked now. The Guardians of the Galaxy will clandestinely set up Starfleet in the future. The dude who designed transparent aluminum on Scotty’s behalf was possibly scooped up by Stark Industries. That whale probe? Of course, Thanos sent it. The Infinity War will be battled with whales.

Infinity Whales.

Now, Thatcher has stated that he would like the character to cameo elsewhere and finance his retirement years. It’s hard to come up with a reason why that shouldn’t occur. If just because he can connect all fictional universes we’ve ever cared about.

 

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