On October 24th 1991 the creator of Star Trek, the Great Bird of the Galaxy Gene Roddenberry left us. It’s hard to imagine a world without Star Trek. Although it’s obviously a fictional show, the impact it has had on so many lives is very real.
I remember where I was when I heard the news. Astronomy Ireland had organised a weekend trip to Birr, Co. Offaly to visit the, at one time, the biggest telescope in the world, as well as have a space shuttle simulation and do some stargazing.
I believe it was the Friday night when we were stargazing that I heard Gene had passed the day before. I’ll be honest, it didn’t affect me much at the time. I was 14 and was more interested in trying to distinguish the differences between two, almost identical, blonde twin sisters, who both liked astronomy. It wasn’t until several years after that night that I began to appreciate how important Gene Roddenberry has been to my life.
I don’t think I would have been at that astronomy weekend if it wasn’t for Star Trek. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t gone on to become one of the many famous Star Trek fans who became an astronaut (Chris Hadfield) or a world renowned scientist (Stephen Hawking). I haven’t invented anything that could be easily described with some of Star Trek’s get-out-of-jail-free technobabble! I’m just a nameless redshirt who has survived with a Star Trek Encyclopedia in my breast pocket. But what do I share with Hadfield, Hawking, Asimov, Bill Gates or Bill Nye?: I LOVE Star Trek. It is part of me, entwined into my being like a tapestry (and I don’t want Q to allow me to change it either!). I believe Star Trek has inspired my healthy amateur love of astronomy but the main reason I am so grateful to Star Trek and it’s creator Gene Roddenberry, is the moral GPS system that it uploaded to my brain! The teenage years are so important in molding a person so I was very lucky to be guided by my parents, but with very special backup from Spock and Picard. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, if the A-Team are just too busy, don’t worry. Just ask yourself ‘what would Picard do?’.
Thank you Gene for bringing those fresh Star Trek snowflakes together and molding them in your hands 50 years ago. That snowball has became a colossal boulder, as it continues to grow and touch so many as it roles into the future.