After Hours

Geek Trivia: Where no (space)man has gone before

Who is the only real-life astronaut ever to be cast in a Star Trek series, a wholly separate accomplishment from the fictional astronauts or historical spacefarers shown in stock footage or played by other actors during the Trek franchise's four-decade run?

Star Trek and science have had an interesting relationship over the last 40 years — each has inspired and influenced the other. Star Trek was based on the limitless possibilities of advanced science (and humanity's potential when it focuses on intellectual development, without racism and nationalism getting in the way). Meanwhile, lots of scientists have been inspired into their careers by Star Trek, and have thus written a little Trek-ness into our everyday lives.

This relationship folded in on itself by the time the fifth Star Trek series, Enterprise, went on the air in 2001. The somewhat controversial opening sequence of Enterprise includes footage and images of actual historical scientific accomplishments intermixed with moments from established Star Trek lore. Collectively, the 80-second opener was intended to draw a rough outline of how humanity advanced from misguided geocentric quasi-astronomers to a species that could travel faster than light, colonize new worlds, and date green-skinned Orion slave girls. (The opener controversy largely centered on the maudlin Russell Watson/Diane Warren theme music, though there were some claims that the above-listed images were rather NASA-centric.)

Included in the opening Enterprise montage are:

  • Overlaid schematics of a Mercury Redstone rocket
  • Footage of the Spirit of St. Louis taxiing on a runway
  • Footage of the space shuttle prototype vehicle Enterprise as it is rolled out from a hangar
  • Footage of Amelia Earhart posing next to an airplane
  • Footage of the Wright Brothers testing an early Wright Flyer
  • Footage of Chuck Yeager flying his Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis
  • Overlaid schematics of Leonardo da Vinci's imagined flying machine
  • Footage of the Apollo 14 crew (led by Alan Shepard) walking in their spacesuits
  • Footage of the space shuttle engine bells during pre-ignition
  • Multiple clips of Saturn V rockets during launch, atmospheric flight and first stage separation
  • Footage of a space shuttle and its crew during launch
  • Footage of Robert Goddard doing calculations on a blackboard
  • Footage of Buzz Aldrin leaving a footprint on the moon
  • Footage of an Apollo Lunar Excursion Module on lunar descent
  • Footage of the Sojourner Rover working on Mars

By some fans' measures, Aldrin, Shepard, and their fellow astronauts were the first of their profession ever "cast" in a Star Trek series. This is untrue. Aldrin, Shepard, and company may be the first astronauts to "play themselves" on a Star Trek show, but another real-life astronaut beat them to the Trek casting couch by eight years.

WHO IS THE ONLY REAL-LIFE ASTRONAUT TO BE CAST IN AN EPISODE OF A STAR TREK SERIES?

Get the answer.

About Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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