Space: the final frontier.
One need not be a “Trekkie” to know the opening line in the title sequence of the original Star Trek. No doubt, the series had an impact on the imaginations of young stargazed geeks and space traveling wannabes that paved a path for a whole new generation of NASA engineers ... and older stargazed geeks and space traveling wannabes.
Although the series served as a vehicle of inspiration for dreamers for almost 40 years now, the actual concepts of Star Trek seemed so far out at the time. Space travel, alien life, mind-melding, warp speed … all fun for playground games but never a real thing.
But surely anyone who goes out in public knows we’re seeing that change right before our eyes. My generation lives in an exciting time, when the gadgets and gizmos once used for communication, navigation and exploration on the Starship Enterprise are becoming more commonly associated with traveling businessmen and soccer moms with hectic schedules – a far reach from their original purpose of assisting space-age voyagers in their mission to boldly go where no man has gone before.
I think we're living the beginning stages of the Star Trek era (a sure sign of becoming more in tune with my nerdy side lately). We might still be far from the days of mind-melding and beaming, when one can be dematerialized and seconds later, be recomposed on the surface of a foreign planet (how I long for the day to say “beam me up, Scottie,” but we're clearly not too far from some other ideas that came across as far-fetched when the show debuted in 1966. Universal translators, for example, are now available via a downloadable app for smart phones; and phasers (as in “set phasers to stun”) are old technology at this point.
Of course, Star Trek wasn't the only accurate futuristic prediction dreamed up by Hollywood. The Jetsons prophesied casual video communication (Skype comes to mind), portable media (like the aforementioned smart phones) and a robotic Hoover (like Roomba). Needless to say, I'm still waiting for a city in the sky, flying cars and the all important time-saving bed mattress that flips me through the shower in the morning. Perhaps in a few more decades ...
With all these once absurd concepts brought about by shows of television past – concepts that have actually been brought to fruition in recent years – it's only natural to wonder if spacecrafts like the Starship Enterprise could exist in the next 100 years. And if the technology exists, which to me doesn't seem too unlikely, what does that mean for the future of space exploration?
Like every sci-fi nerd, I find myself wondering what exists beyond our knowledge, beyond our solar system, and beyond whatever comes after that. Adding to that sense of wonder, scientists this week announced the existence of three planets outside our solar system that have the potential to host life, which makes me wonder what the chances are that one of them might be the new earth in 1,000 years; that is, if it isn't already home to something else. Is there an opportunity to explore strange mew worlds, as William Shatner said, to seek out new life and new civilizations? And if there is, are those civilizations hostile, or would they be more akin to Mork from Mork and Mindy (not that the universe wouldn't implode with two Robin Williams')?
Bob Dylan wrote “The Times, They are a-Changin’.” That was four decades ago and I think the biggest changes are yet to come (cue theme from Star Trek).
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