Star Trek Controls Going into New U.S. Spacecraft

    August 2, 2014
    Mike Tuttle
    Comments are off for this post.

Star Trek-style technology is becoming reality around us everyday. We have cell phones that look like the old communicators that Kirk flipped open. E-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad are a lot like the Next Generation-era padds (Personal Access Display Device) that Picard and others used. There are lots of things that we are bringing from Trek’s future into our present.

There was a two-part episode of Voyager called “Future’s End” that even flirted with the idea that someone in the mid-20th century found Trek technology from the future and used it to launch the micro-computer revolution we are living in today. That episode itself used lots of themes and jokes from the Voyage Home feature film. The Trek folks are meta like that.

A 1993 study from Purdue University found that children learn more about science from Star Trek than from any other source.

And now we have the news from Air & Space Smithsonian that a new American spacecraft is being built that will utilize another Star Trek feature. Not warp nacelles or tractor beams, but something very familiar to all Trek fans from Next Generation forward.

The Orion capsule will feature very few control switches, as were in NASA craft of the past, and instead move to a touchscreen interface. The system is called “eProc” (electronic procedures), and is programmed to bring up the needed pages of icons as the user navigates the interface.

Trek fans will remember LCARS, the interface used in Trek computers, that was all touchscreen. LCARS is an acronym for Library Computer Access/Retrieval System. Scenic art supervisor and technical consultant Michael Okuda designed the LCARS interface to make the bridge of the newest Enterprise look clean and sleek.

“I came up with the LCARS style in part because of Gene Roddenberry’s directive that he wanted his new Enterprise to be so advanced that it looked simple and clean,” Okuda said. “The other part of the LCARS style was that it had to be something that could be manufactured quickly and easily on a television budget.”

The original setup on TNG was a simple plexiglass front with backlit printouts of the buttons needed. Later they installed video monitors within the panels so the interface could be changed at will.

Nowadays, we are used to the notion of touchscreen interfaces. They are in most smartphones, thanks to Apple leading the way with the iPhone. You can even get apps and wallpapers that will make your smartphone look like it is sporting the LCARS system.

There is even a very geek-centric website that is designed around the LCARS interface.

Image via YouTube

  • NCC-1701

    I’ll bet most of the scientific community has been inspired by Star Trek. You don’t see them going around claiming Star Wars inspired them. It’s Always Trek. 😀 Roddenberry’s positive outlook really touched a nerve. The world may be a mess, but there is always the positive future to hope for.

    • WeaverMichaels

      Science fiction in general. So many writers such as Isaac Asimov long paved the way for the way we now think of science fact.

      • el lobo

        Before Isaac Asimov there was Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

      • Chris915

        In fact, I believe Asimov assisted Roddenberry with his science fiction writing in terms of keeping things as plausible as possible.

  • djav72

    “To boldly go, where no man has gone before”.

    • el lobo

      Don’t forget Captain Nemo in his Nautilus boldly went first.

  • loujen31

    I agree with Taryn. Star Trek, and Star Wars, were not similar, at all. Star Trek was a hopeful look at the possible future. Star Wars was stupid comic book series. When I first heard about, the first Star Wars movie, I was excited, thinking it would be, like a Star Trek on the big screen. I went to see it, and walked out, after about thirty minutes. I have never watched any Star Wars, since!!!!

    • WeaverMichaels

      Both can be considered ridiculously stupid, depending on what side of the fence you stand on. Different styles and purposes in both so they can’t fairly be compared.

    • el lobo

      Star Wars were for kids.

    • jimwilson81

      Star Trek was based on scientific fact and theories, thereby making it science fiction. Star Wars was just a story based on no scientific facts or theories, making it fantasy. That is what the difference is.

  • I like Trek

    What’s with the random Star Wars bashing? Instead of praising Star Trek you guys are sitting around talking about Star Wars which has nothing to do with the article! lmao Star Trek fans are really some of the most negative people I’ve ever seen.

    • ajs1976

      How are they bashing star wars? They stated fact if had you bothered read how star trek was based on scientific theories whilst star wars was made up. Never once did anyone bash it they stated they didn’t like it and that’s fine. And I have seen many star wars do same thing you stated, and against the own franchise.

  • Derek Saunders

    No doubt about it: Gene Roddenberry was a genius! Far ahead of his time. Warp speed, Mr. R!

  • brian

    It seems unreachable to most to have all the star trek tech but I believe were right on schedule. We still have another 200 to 500 years to get to use warp drive ships without killing ourselves. For humans to survive in future will need to have star trek tech capabilities, without question it is surely something to aspire to. I think this is what Jesus would want us to do.

  • http://www.adderstar.net Adder_Astros

    First, as much as I love Star Trek and the idea of having a space faring vessel with a LCARS style interface, I feel that a space shuttle that uses touch screen tech almost exclusively is as bad an idea, if not worse, than a car that uses touch screen technology almost exclusively. I have four words for you: Blue Screen of Death. Too much can go wrong. Steering wheel and analog switches, please. Maybe in a thousand years we’ll be ready for touch screens.

    Second, we have seven billion brains and fourteen billion hands on this stupid planet. We could have been doing this a century ago if our priorities were straight.

    • TA B

      i/o systems are not as “exclusive” as you might think. At some point (usually at the output) there is a way for the human to effect change.

    • Laura

      so you want it to look more like the Delta Flyer? :)

    • http://www.adderstar.net Adder_Astros

      @TA B:
      “The Orion capsule will feature very few control switches, as were in NASA craft of the past, and instead move to a touchscreen interface. The system is called ‘eProc’ (electronic procedures), and is programmed to bring up the needed pages of icons as the user navigates the interface.”

      I’m going by what they’re saying.

    • http://www.adderstar.net Adder_Astros

      The opposite of the Delta Flyer… I think that’d be more appropriate, at least at this point in our development.

  • William Shepherd

    I remember watching TOS when I was a child, and I find it “fascinating” to see how much Star Trek has influenced our present, in so many ways. I don’t think any of us could disagree that Star Trek has had more influence on our present than any other TV series of its time. I dont think most kids of this generation realize just how much Star Trek has influenced the technology they take for granted today!!

    • jimwilson81

      I completely agree with you.

  • Marc-André Jutras

    Just very sad that this sociocultural influence from the show ended when Jar Jar Abrams took over. :(

  • Ben

    Actually, Apple didn’t lead the way with touchscreens in cell phones. I had a cell phone in 2001 that had a touchscreen in it. It was a Kyocera 6035. IT was also the FIRST smart phone offered by Verizon. http://bgr.com/2011/06/23/throwback-thursday-kyocera-6035-verizons-first-smartphone/