Sixty-Three Years Leading Us to a Star Trek Life

On 1 October 2021, NASA celebrated the agency’s 63rd anniversary of operation. On October 5th two Russians, a film director and an actress, docked with the International Space Station to do a twelve day movie shoot. Are the past sixty-three years leading us to a Star Trek Life?

Photograph of NASA's control room in 19 with eight men crowded around control panels with dials and on off switches. Definitely not close to Star Trek Life.

The Beginning

In the summer of 1950, a two-stage rocket called Bumper 2 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It reached an altitude 250 miles higher than the International Space Station’s altitude. Under the direction of General Electric, Bumper 2 rockets were used to test rocket systems and for upper atmosphere research. It was far from even the dream of a Star Trek Life.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik I. A basketball-sized satellite, Sputnik I, orbited the earth in 98 minutes.

Caught off-guard by the launch, the United States scrambled to develop similar or superior capabilities. In December, they launched their first satellite, the Vanguard. It exploded shortly after takeoff.

The first successful satellite launch in the U.S. came at the end of January 1958. In July of that year, Congress passed legislation that created NASA.

NASA’s Years

On October 1, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), began operating with 8,000 employees spread over four facilities. A small office in Washington DC directed operations. The agency also had three major research facilities and two test research sites. They had a 100 million dollar budget.

On October 11, NASA launched Pioneer 1.

Within six months, they unveiled the Mercury astronaut corps. It was 1961 before President John F. Kennedy issued his challenge to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Then, on July 20, 1969, NASA’s Apollo Mission and Neil Armstrong made history. Soaring to the moon with less technology than is in our kitchens today.

There have been near misses and tragic sacrifices along the way. NASA’s mission has shrunk and expanded. But their continuing research has given us many spinoffs.

Sixty+ Years Later

Photograph of the sleek and smaller workstations of NASA's control center in 2013. It looks like a slice of Star Trek life.
Date: 07-16-13 Location: Bldg 30 South, FCR-1 Subject: Expedition 36 ISS flight controllers on console during EVA #23 with Chris Cassidy and Luca Parmitano. Photographer: James Blair

In 2020, NASA had 17,373 employees and a budget of more than 22 billion dollars. There are ten major facilities and at least 8 smaller ones.

Besides NASA’s plans to launch projects into space, there are the NASA website. On the website you’ll find the NASA blog, NASA TV, NASA Live, NASA social media, educational sites, and tons and tons of photos and videos. There are apps and podcasts and ebooks and ringtones and so much more.

It’s not just the U.S. And the Russians. And it hasn’t been for years. More and more nations are launching rockets with human and nonhuman payloads. Celebrities and civilians are joining the ranks of the spacefaring.

The International Space Station (ISS) had been operational and continuously occupied for twenty years and 337 days. There are Mars One projects, and Mars rovers, and space telescopes to mention less than a handful of hundreds of projects from countries all over the Earth. Each project may hold discoveries that truly will launch us on our Star Trek Life.

And this has only been a portion of one lifetime of space adventures.

Conclusion

According to Wikipedia’s count, there were more than 200 successful spaceflights during 2020. We don’t have flying cars that can fold into a briefcase yet, so we aren’t ready for the Jetson life, but ISS has fresh chile peppers they’ve grown in orbit. And like a scene out of Star Trek, there’s a movie actress onboard ISS! Space hotels and voyages to Mars are in our near future. We’ve had sixty-three years leading us to a Star Trek life. Are you ready to “Boldy Go” sixty three more years?

Image Credits

Upper photo: Technicians and engineers monitor the countdown for the liftoff of Explorer 1 in the control room of the blockhouse at Space Launch Complex 26 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Annex (now Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.) Photo credit: NASA

Lower photo: (16 July 2013) — Flight directors and spacecraft communicators appear in the foreground of this scene in the space station flight control room of the Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center during the July 16 Expedition 36 spacewalk outside the International Space Station of astronauts Chris Cassidy of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency. From the left are Jerry Jason and David Korth at the FD console and astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough at the CAPCOM console. Issues with Parmitano’s spacesuit brought the spacewalk to an early end. Photo credit: NASA

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