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'Star Trek' stars go ga-ga over real astronauts during video hangout

NASA connects the crew of "Star Trek Into Darkness" with the International Space Station and other astronauts. Watch the full 56-minute Google+ Hangout.



You'd think that traveling at warp speed to the planet Nibiru would be the coolest thing in outer space, but for the Hollywood types who made "Star Trek Into Darkness," talking with a real astronaut on the International Space Station was way more awesome.

"I'll just act like this is a perfectly normal thing to be happening," Damon Lindelof, a writer and producer for the just-released movie, told NASA's Chris Cassidy during a Google+ Hangout presented on Thursday by the space agency and Warner Bros. "We are literally tickled pink to be talking to you right now."

The other "Star Trek" actors in on the Hangout — Chris Pine (who plays Captain James Kirk), John Cho (Sulu) and Alice Eve (who gets a healthy dose of screen time as Dr. Carol Marcus) — were just as taken. They laughed and hooted like fanboys when Cassidy let go of his microphone and took an upside-down spin in zero-G.


Pine said he loved the idea of mashing up fictional and real-life spaceflight: "It's great that our worlds can meet at some point in the middle and hopefully inspire people to do good things, and to explore."

The feeling was clearly mutual: Astronaut Mike Fincke, who served as space station commander in 2008-2009, said the "Star Trek" TV shows and movies have long inspired scientists, engineers and spacefliers. "We fall for it every time here at NASA," he said.

Fincke appeared in the final episode of the "Star Trek: Enterprise" TV series, and on Thursday he joked that he'd rather be in Hollywood: "Ever since I was 3 years old, I wanted to be a director and writer, but I failed director-writer school. Then I tried acting, and that didn't work out. So now I go on spacewalks." 

If Lindelof has anything to do with it, Fincke won't be the last astronaut to make the crossover to Hollywood. He promised Cassidy that he'd be welcome to a cameo role in a future "Star Trek" movie. "Maybe you could class up the joint a bit," Lindelof said.

Cassidy said the "Star Trek" crew would be welcome aboard the space station as well. He noted that there were currently a couple of vacancies in the U.S. segment of the station — due to the fact that one batch of crew members has just returned to Earth, and their replacements aren't due for launch until May 28. "We got two open beds," Cassidy joked. "The first two here get 'em."

You can watch the whole 56-minute Hangout while you're waiting for the next showing of "Star Trek Into Darkness," but here are a few of the highlights:

  • When asked about last week's ammonia coolant leak at the station, Cassidy said he was surprised to see how quickly mission managers were able to plan a spacewalk to fix it. "It's not like you can rescue Spock from a volcano and push a button. It doesn't happen that way up here," he said. Cassidy said the episode illustrated how useful it is to have "garage-tinkerer" types aboard the station.
  • Cassidy said ammonia contamination was one of the three emergency threats that the space station crew had to be prepared to deal with, along with an onboard fire or rapid decompression. That led Lindelof to warn the astronaut about the latest "Star Trek" super-villain. "You should watch out for Benedict Cumberbatch," he said. "He's very threatening, I understand."
  • Cassidy said the thing that gets him the most about "Star Trek" and other space movies was the ease with which everyone walked around on spaceships, as if artificial gravity was nothing special. Even though weightlessness has its drawbacks, floating around in zero-G would make the movies much more interesting. "Trust me, it's a pretty cool thing to do this anytime you want," Cassidy said.
  • The astronauts talked around a question that asked them to name their favorite "Star Trek" captain, but Fincke said his favorite name for a starship would be Enterprise (natch!). Fellow NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren went with the Starship Endurance, which pays tribute to the ship for Ernest Shackleton's famous Antarctic ordeal in 1914.
  • Life aboard the space station tends to give astronauts the same optimistic view of the future that runs through the "Star Trek" saga, Cassidy said. From space, Earth seems so tranquil and peaceful. "There are no borders down there," Cassidy said. "You can't see a little yellow line painted on the green part."
  • One of the questions sent in during the Hangout focused on a more mundane aspect of spaceflight: How do spacewalkers handle a sneeze? Cassidy admitted that could be a problem. "Once the helmet goes on, any schmutz that goes on there is just an impediment to seeing clearly," he said. The solution is to incline your head downward before the sneeze, so that the schmutz is directed below the face plate.

More about 'Star Trek' and spaceflight:


Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with NBCNews.com's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.