Changing Planet

Captain Kirk Virtually Beams up to Space Station

Looks like hailing frequencies were opened this week between Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek TV and movie franchise fame and the International Space Station orbiting Earth. William Shatner, the actor who played the captain of the starship Enterprise had a lively conversation today with astronaut Chris Hadfield, currently aboard the ISS.

Shatner spoke by phone from Los Angeles, California while fellow Canadian Hadfield appeared via video link from space on a live webcast moderated from the Canadian Space Agency headquarters near Montreal, Quebec.

Topics discussed ranged from the future of the American space program to coping with fear associated with being an astronaut and test pilot.

Hadfield said he equated an astronaut’s fear to that of an actor worried about remembering his or her lines and so he always made sure he knew his.

Shatner then responded by pointing out that the consequences may in fact be a bit different.

“In my case, your face flushes…. In your case, you burn up.”

To that Hadfield joked, “Well in both cases you go down in flames. One’s figurative and one is not.”

Leading up to the cosmic conversation, the two Canadian space icons had been chatting away on Twitter for over a month.  Their lively cyber-exchange elicited some witty tweets from other famous Star Trek alumni like Leonard Nimoy aka Spock, George Takei aka Sulu and even a quip from a real moon-walker, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

At one point in their webcast this week, their discussion centered on the possibility of humans eventually going to Mars – and the dangers surrounding such a mission.

“I’m in a position to say the risks are infinitely worthwhile when you look at the view that is just outside this window behind me and the things that lie just beyond,” said Hadfield.

“Going to Mars is inevitable just as sailing across the Atlantic or flying across the Atlantic or orbiting around the world or going to the moon. It’s just a matter of when we figure out how.”

Hadfield blasted into space aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft back in December on a five month mission aboard the orbiting laboratory, as part of the Expedition 34/35 crew. While one of his main tasks is to conduct numerous science experiments, since his arrival Hadfield has also been quite a shutterbug, snapping some amazing photos of Earth and sharing his experiences with the world through his @Cmdr_Hadfield twitter feed.

Turns out he’s quite popular – racking up more followers than the Prime Minister of Canada! In March, Hadfield will make history when he takes over the reins as Commander of the ISS- the first Canadian ever to hold that post.

The discussion lasted for over 10 minutes and ended with Hadfield extending and invitation to Captain Kirk to join him at his country cottage where they could watch the stars and compare notes between fictional and real spaceship commanders.

Check out the official video of the event. courtesy of Canadian space Agency

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Alan Brown

    Correction: The first non-european, non-russian commander of the ISS was Frank DeWinne, a European astronaut from Belgium, who commanded Expedition_21 in 2009. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata is currently assigned to Expedition 38/39 long duration spaceflight scheduled for 2013-2014. He will be the first Japanese commander of the Space Station during Expedition 39.

  • Drew Johnson

    Alan, did you mean the first non-American, non-Russian commander? Because a European astronaut can clearly not be non-European.

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