When "Star Trek" captain William Shatner – James T. Kirk to we Trekkies – flew to space in October, the family of one of his co-stars played close attention.
Shatner's Oct. 13 flight on Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft inspired worldwide tributes and discussion about "Star Trek," a series that embedded diversity into its framework from the start.
The family of Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed the half-Vulcan Spock, told Space.com they wished Nimoy could have flown, too. Sadly, the actor died in 2015 at age 83 of a long-term health condition called COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Incidentally, the family earlier made a documentary about the disease, too.
In 2016, daughter Julie asked an artist (the family kept that individual anonymous) to create a sterling silver necklace featuring the "LLAP" symbol – that's Live Long and Prosper, Spock's catchphrase on behalf of the Vulcan alien race that made up part of his ancestry on the show.
The necklace launched into space on Saturday (Dec. 11) Blue Origin NS-19 mission with Laura Shepard Churchley, the 75-year-old daughter of Alan Shepard. The elder Shepard lifted off on NASA's first human spaceflight on May 5, 1961.
"Like his character, Mr. Spock, my dad loved science and technology," Julie Nimoy told Space.com, adding that she is certain that her father would have joined Shatner on the latter's flight, given that the two were lifelong friends.
"There's no question that dad was extremely proud of the fact that he inspired generations of astronauts, scientists and engineers towards careers in space technology and exploration," Nimoy added. "I'm certain he would have used this opportunity to spread an enduring message of hope and inspiration for all to Live Long and Prosper."
The necklace, featuring the iconic LLAP hand symbol famous to Trekkies, is a unique item and not available anywhere for sale. Nimoy's husband, David Knight, reached out to Blue Origin shortly after the Shatner flight with the tribute idea, and said he was honored to hear back from them within minutes.
"They looked at that like a no-brainer, they got back to us very fast and just said, 'Yes, yes, yes, we want to do this," Knight told Space.com. "It made us feel good, because Leonard, he loved this. LLAP was something that he was so close to. I think nowadays it even means more."
The Nimoy family said they are glad to see the image of Spock being used for such things as vaccination campaigns, and added they are thrilled with the newer versions of "Star Trek" airing these days. "Discovery", which featured a young Spock (Ethan Peck), is one of the newer family favorites, they said.
Knight added the family works to keep the space community engaged with Spock's symbol, and are excited about ongoing fundraising for a memorial to Leonard Nimoy planned to be at the Museum of Science in Boston. The sculpture will include an LLAP symbol. You can access the campaign here.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace