“Humans are capable of so much more than we yet understand,” said the late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. “We’re really something. Star Trek fans believe that, and so do I. For us, no limits.”

NASA proved Roddenberry’s sentiment on February 18 when Perseverance, the largest and most advanced rover sent to another world, touched down on Mars after a 203-day journey traversing 472 million kilometres.

NASA Perseverance Rover Initial Surface Checkout Briefing
DESCENT: NASA’s Perseverance rover falls through the Martian atmosphere, its parachute trailing behind. The ancient river delta, which is the target of the Perseverance mission, can be seen entering Jezero Crater from the left. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk.

“The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration. The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.”

Roddenberry was right, we are really something.

Rocket Lab, based in Mt Wellington, Auckland, proved there are no limits to Kiwi ingenuity and innovation, by launching nearly 100 satellites from its private launch sites in Mahia, Hawke’s Bay, and Wallops Island, USA.

Company-X communications manager Chris Gardner and I were lucky enough to be invited to the opening of Rocket Lab’s high-volume production facility in Mt Wellington, Auckland, by Star Trek actor William Shatner in 2018.

William Shatner
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Actor William Shatner, Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk, signs an Electron rocket at the opening of Rocket Lab in Auckland.

“Generally, it’s countries that go to space, not companies, and in this elite club there’s only one other,” Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck said at the opening.

Beck is a man who believes in no limits, espousing Kiwi ingenuity and innovation.

“There’s been two private companies in the history of this Earth that have ever put a spacecraft in orbit and Rocket Lab is one of them.”

Shatner thought Beck and his team’s innovative approach was “really something” too.

“Wow! You’re sending rockets up for such a small percentage of the price it takes for us to do in America,” the Captain Kirk actor said. “What wonderful, innovative, work all of you are doing. It’s special.”

In an interview for Star Trek Magazine, Beck told Chris he would not call himself a Trekkie, but he does own a set of Star Trek cufflinks and keeps a set of the Star Trek: The Original Series discs which he keeps at work.

“We do own a set at Rocket Lab, only because we play them in the lunch room during lunch,” he said.

The lines between science fiction and fact are often blurred.

“One of the things I find doing so much is trying to make people understand how reliant they are on space. People get very wound up in their terrestrial days and lives staring at their mobile device the whole point of humanity starting this project was trying to get people to look up and look out into the universe and realise that we are just one insignificant species floating on a rock in a giant universe.

“Star Trek played a really important role in making space mainstream, making the exploration of the universe mainstream.”

Well done Steve Jurczyk and your team at NASA, Peter Beck and your team at Rocket Lab, and everyone who has looked to the stars and dreamed.

We really are something!

  • David Hallett is a co-founder and director of Hamilton software specialist Company-X.