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Space station opens hailing frequencies for Captain Kirk

Elizabeth Howell, News Writer
Feb 9, 2013, 8:00 UTC

(Sen) - Beaming Captain Kirk to the space station is still many decades of technology away. However, the famed actor who played that character - William Shatner - had his voice broadcast to the station February 7.

Shatner spent several minutes trading observations about life in space and life as an actor with Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut who came to the world's attention after the Star Trek star tweeted him January 3.

In an exchange broadcast in front of a tweetup crowd at Canadian Space Agency headquarters near Montreal, Canada, Shatner asked Hadfield how the astronaut deals with fear in space.

"I read somewhere that you always knew your lines whenever you had a job in the acting profession. I have tried to always know my lines, whether it was as a fighter pilot or as an astronaut or as a test pilot," Hadfield said.

"The way I deal with fear is I try to define what it is that's scaring me, and what I'm scared most of is not knowing what to do next. To be struck dumb on stage, or to be responsible for a vehicle and not know the right actions to take with my hands or with the spaceship. So I spent almost my entire adult life making sure that I knew my lines."

The conversation flipped between serious matters and moments when Hadfield referenced Star Trek. The astronaut, for example, played the whistle Star Trek fans heard when the U.S.S. Enterprise opened communications with other ships.

However, the men also talked about the United States' decision to fly Hadfield into space on a Russian vehicle. Shatner expressed some concern about this, to which Hadfield responded that the country is simply taking its time doing a good job developing the next vehicle after the shuttle.

NASA and several commercial providers, including SpaceX, are working on numerous spaceflight vehicles that could be ready for human flight to the space station around 2017 or 2018. Additionally, Virgin Galactic is among several private companies vying to fly tourists to suborbital altitudes in the coming years.

Between Shatner and Hadfield, however, the topic of conversation also turned to Mars. Hadfield called that planet an "inevitable" destination for humans, even though there will be great risk and expense to go.

Hadfield characterized the voyages of Shatner's fictional spaceship as one of his primary inspirations for becoming an astronaut.

"[It] inspires people like me to do things like this, and without that inspiration and then without the technological capability that comes along with it, none of it would be possible," Hadfield said.

Gesturing behind him to a window on the International Space Station, Hadfield added, "and I'm in a position to say the risks are infinitely worthwhile, when you look at the view that's just out these windows behind me and the things that lie just beyond."

Hadfield will soon have extra responsibilities to add to his work in orbit, when he becomes the commander of Expedition 35 in March.

After he lands, Hadfield has invited Shatner to spend time at the astronaut's cottage in Ontario. Shatner quipped that he hopes the chat continues over whiskey and a cigar.