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Have Any Real-Life Astronauts Appeared on "Star Trek"?

Margaret Lipman
Updated May 17, 2024
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It's fair to say that plenty of Star Trek fans are also interested in the real-life heroics of NASA astronauts. So what a thrill it must have been in 1993 when Dr. Mae Jemison – the first African-American woman in space – briefly appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Jemison played Lieutenant Palmer, a transporter operator, in the season six episode "Second Chances."

This collision of real-life space travel with science fiction came about thanks to LeVar Burton. You probably know him as Geordi La Forge in The Next Generation, but he also directed numerous Star Trek episodes across several shows. Burton proposed the idea of appearing in an episode he was directing to Jemison, and she happily accepted, having been a Star Trek fan since childhood.

Jemison wouldn't be the last real-life space traveler to serve on the crew of the USS Enterprise. In 2005, NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Terry Virts had guest roles in the series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise. And in a reverse of fiction meeting fact, in 2021, 90-year-old Star Trek actor William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk in The Original Series, became the oldest human in space when he traveled aboard a private Blue Origin spacecraft.

More about Mae:

  • Dr. Mae Jemison served as a mission specialist for the STS-47 mission aboard the space shuttle Endeavor, from September 12-20, 1992. Prior to applying to NASA in the mid-1980s, Jemison earned a medical degree from Cornell and served in the Peace Corps before becoming a general practitioner.

  • While on The Next Generation set, Jemison met Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in The Original Series and was an inspiration for Jemison considering a NASA career. Jemison and Nichols would become good friends.

  • According to Jemison, "It was a very cool experience, because in many ways it was coming full circle. As a little girl, I watched Star Trek. I knew that looking at Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura, someone was connecting my idea of space, and now I got to come back around and help to verify that 'yes this happened.'"

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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