How Star Trek influenced modern space travel more than any other science fiction
When the first Star Trek episode- "The Man Trap"- was aired on 8th September 1966, no one would have expected it to have such a huge impact on the pop culture in the decades to follow, and most importantly space-travel itself. The Star Trek franchise won and inspired several millions of fans and innovators in its voyage spanning half a century.

Over the course of 50 years, there have been 13 feature films and 6 television series, along with an ever-growing constellation of games, comics, toys, and books. As Jeremy Berlin wrote in his National Geographic piece, "it has boldly gone where no science fiction has gone before."

One of the most significant examples of Star Trek inspiring real-life event happened in the 1970s. Back then, the United States was preparing test flights for the first space shuttle program and the prototype they made was named Constitution. However, after thousands of Star Trek fans held a write-in campaign to NASA and White House, its name was changed to Enterprise, an iconic starship in the Star Trek franchise.


It wasn't just NASA who honoured the USS Enterprise using the name in its space shuttle. Decades later Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company, named one of its spacecraft VSS Enterprise. VSS Enterprise was built in 2004 and underwent several tests in preparation for space travel. However, it was destroyed in 2014 during a crash that also took the life of its pilot as well.


Coming back to NASA, the association with Star Trek and NASA has only grown stronger in the decades following the airing of The Original Series, which ran from 1966 to 1969. Recently, in 2014, the name for NASA's conceptual superluminal spacecraft was nothing other than Enterprise, in this case, the IXS Enterprise. In addition, NASA has named a number of asteroids after people or elements connected to the Star Trek franchise. 2309 Mr Spock, 4659 Roddenberry, 7307 Takei, and 9777 Enterprise, are few examples of such asteroids.

It can be pointed that Star Trek's biggest contribution was not just the entertainment it provided or the legacy it created but inspiring a whole generation of astronomers and astrophysicists. "I saw 'Star Trek' the original series as a little girl and for me it was really great because it talked about and dealt with situations that were going on at the time, but you saw it with a lens of another place, another time, another world, another group of people," Mae C Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut, told the Space.com. According to Jennison, who is now principal for the 100 Year Starship Foundation, she felt affirmed by the diversity of characters represented on the original series, in a time where diversity wasn't present in the real-life astronaut corps.


For NASA Engineer Harold White, "the idea of going 'beyond' is, just a soft terminology meant to capture anywhere in the cosmos so everyone has a soft spot for one of the old explorers", writes Fox News. "It's one of those things it all goes back to a deep desire to see some very incredible things maybe come to pass one day," says Harold about finding inspiration from Star Trek.

In the time span of 50 years, Star Trek has inspired and influenced astronauts, writers, innovators, policymakers, and common public, with its closer to real science and incredible vision of the future. And there is no doubt that it will keep inspiring the "next generation" in the coming decades as well.

Here's "to boldly go where no one has gone before" .