Fans made early Saturday night an educational and entertaining San Diego Comic-Con experience by attending the panel Trek Talks: NASA and Star Trek Boldly Go. Moderated by Voyager's very own Robert Picardo, the panel featured the insights of Astronaut Kjell Lindgren, NASA Johnson Space Center; Bobak Ferdowsi, Flight Systems Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Amber Staughn, Astrophysicist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; and Jay Falker, Early Stage Portfolio Executive, Space Technology Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters.
The panel opened with "A Message from the Captain: Science Fact and Science Fiction" featuring William Shatner.
"How did watching me inspire you?" Picardo joked as he kicked off the proceedings.
The group then discussed how Star Trek has influenced many of us to fall in love with the infinite possibilities of space exploration. Everyone agreed that the various Trek television series and films have also made an indelible, direct impact on NASA. In fact, many NASA scientists, engineers and astronauts cite Star Trek as inspiring them to pursue careers in their fields. Panel topics explored how NASA’s vision of the future mimics the world of Star Trek and considered where it differed, as well explored how some technologies depicted in the Star Trek world have become a reality in our own world.
Asked if Star Trek or science fiction inspired his career path, Lindgren replied, "Absolutely. I grew up on a steady diet of sci-fi."
Dr. Straughn noted that the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be "100 times more powerful" than the Hubble Telescope.
Ferdowsi pointed out that, "These icy worlds, moons of Jupiter, Saturn... We're sending Europa up there to look for signs of life."
Meanwhile, Dr. Falker explained that he loved the study of what he termed "impossible" science. And he knows of what he speaks, having worked on two types of tractor beams. The next challenge? "A replicator." Dr. Ferdowsi got people thinking when he acknowledged an interesting challenge in the search for life in space: making sure it didn't originate on Earth.
And Dr. Straughn believes that there's intelligent life beyond Earth, but feels that "we may not find it in our lifetime. The universe is vast!" Of course, that's probably not the worst thing, since that's precisely what Star Trek is all about.
The panel ran out of time before a special video, "NASA on the Edge of Forever" could but played, but StarTrek.com has it for all of the fans.