Actor George Takei Treks to NASA Spaceport, Promotes Diversity

CAPE CANAVERAL - ActorGeorge Takei played the helmsman of the original USS Enterprise on the classicTV series "Star Trek," but he was in awe Monday at Kennedy SpaceCenter when he saw engineers and technicians making space travel a reality.

"I'm an actor. We justcreated the illusion of space. But here, the real thing is being done,"Takei said. "What I see being done here is really the launching pad of thefuture."

Takei, 69, is best knownfor playing Mr. Sulu on the cult classic,which aired from 1966 through 1969. He and the fictional crew of the StarshipEnterprise explored space and defended the United Federation of Planets.

More recently, though,Takei came out as a homosexual, and he came to KSC to talk with workers aboutthe value of diversity in complex team efforts.

"Star Trek certainlydemonstrated that. We had visual diversity -- an African woman, an Asian man, apointy-eared alien. But you also heard the diversity -- the Scottish accent ofthe engineer, the Russian accent of our navigator, the southern drawl of ourdoctor," he said.

"The point we weretrying to make is that there are diversities that you can hear. But anotherlayer of that diversity that you can't see or hear is sexual orientation. Andsexual orientation can contribute to the strength of whatever enterprise youare engaged in."

Takei, who now appears periodicallyon "The Howard Stern Show" and is cast in the NBC TV show"Heroes," also had an opportunity to tour restricted areas at KSC.

He got a close look atcomponents being readied for launch to the InternationalSpace Station, NASA's twin shuttle launch pads and technicians working on awinged orbiter in its processing hangar.

"When I walked throughthe orbiter assembly area, they all looked at me as something of a hero. Butwe're just actors. They are the real heroes," Takei said. "They arethe ones that are in fact creating the future that we fabricated fortelevision."

Published under license from FLORIDATODAY. Copyright ? 2007 FLORIDA TODAY. No portion of this materialmay be reproduced in any way without the written consent of FLORIDA TODAY

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Aerospace Journalist

Todd Halvoron is a veteran aerospace journalist based in Titusville, Florida who covered NASA and the U.S. space program for 27 years with Florida Today. His coverage for Florida Today also appeared in USA Today, and 80 other newspapers across the United States. Todd earned a bachelor's degree in English literature, journalism and fiction from the University of Cincinnati and also served as Florida Today's Kennedy Space Center Bureau Chief during his tenure at Florida Today. Halvorson has been an independent aerospace journalist since 2013.