Science of Star Trek: NASA Explains How Much of it is Real
In commemoration of Star Trek's 50th anniversary this year, NASA shares secrets about the science behind the famous TV and movie franchise and how much of it is true or not. So is the movie full of hi-tech fantasies for people escaping reality or is there actual science behind it? That's what NASA explains in their latest press release.
It looks like NASA is on the Star Trek circle, since the first Enterprise spacecraft was released in 1976 and was personally welcomed by then NASA administrator Dr. James D. Fletcher. According to NASA the original Star Trek Series producer Gene Roddenberry knows his astronomy, that is where the warp comes into play because he did understand that actual spaceships will take years to travel from one planet to the other.
What anchored Star Trek close the people's heart is the teasing of what could become reality. The producers made sure that the planets depicted in the series are far away but can potentially be reached by humans in the future. The tendency or possibility of it becoming a reality is what made the series a success, according to the agency.
But of course there are a lot of mistakes also pointed out by NASA especially when it comes to space battles where soldiers were forced to hold their breath in order to survive. In real life, that wouldn't be possible since the lungs can rupture in situations presented in the series.
"Generally, Star Trek is pretty intelligently written and more faithful to science than any other science fiction series ever shown on television," David Allen Batchelor of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center said in a press release. "Star Trek also attracts and excites generations of viewers about advanced science and engineering, and it's almost the only show that depicts scientists and engineers positively, as role models. So let's forgive the show for an occasional misconception in the service of an epic adventure," Batchelor added.
So what are the real scientific references included in Star Trek? According to NASA, the Wolf 359 star system exists in real life in addition to their binary stars and solar flares that were depicted with accuracy.
And although Vulcan, the planet, doesn't really exist, Spock's star system where Vulcan supposedly belongs to exists in real life. "While Vulcan is fictional, the star system it belongs to-40 Eridani-is very real. It's located only 16.5 light-years away from Earth and its primary star can be spotted with the naked eye," a NASA official said in another statement.
Eridani is another star system within the Milky Way galaxy. According to NASA's Karl Stapefeldt, there's no way science can tell whether there are Earth-like planets in that specific star system today. So it is conclusive that the planet Vulcan doesn't exist in 40 Ediani.
Some other references are mentioned by the agency like engine systems, robotics, virtual reality and well, alien life and according to scientists although Earth doesn't have the capability yet to turn these into reality, it is not impossible as science are already working towards the achievement of the mentioned systems, except of course when it comes to extraterrestrial life. And NASA also did not shut the possibility of finding alien life forms citing that the Kepler's telescopes discovery of more than 2,933 exoplanets means there are many worlds's beyond Earth than men are yet to explore.
In spirit of recognizing real science, the cast of the movie Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) also did a Q&A with NASA to show how much science they know.