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Tributes from Earth and in orbit to Star Trek's Mr Spock

Paul Sutherland, Feature writer
Mar 1, 2015, 18:33 UTC

Sen—The death of Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy not only brought great sadness to legions of fans of the fictional Mr Spock. Tributes poured in too from people involved in the real business of space exploration, both on the ground and in orbit.

Astronauts, scientists and engineers paid their respects to the 83-year-old actor, whose role in the cult TV scifi series of the Sixties led to several spin-off movies, revealing what an impact he had on their work.

Members of the current crew aboard the International Space Station beamed down pictures, which quickly spread via social media, of themselves performing Spock’s famous Vulcan salute.

Leading the tributes back on Earth to Nimoy, who died in Los Angeles on Friday, Mar. 27, from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was no less than President Obama from the White House.

He said in a statement: “Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.

“I loved Spock.

“In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for ‘Live long and prosper.’  And after 83 years on this planet—and on his visits to many others—it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that. Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden also made his own statement, recognising the Star Trek legend’s influence on the space agency. NASA, of course, named a Space Shuttle Enterprise after Spock’s futuristic fictional vessel.


U.S. astronaut Terry Virts makes his own attempt at the Vulcan salute aboard the ISS. Image credit: NASA

Bolden, himself a former Shuttle astronaut, commented: “Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers. As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most.

“NASA was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague. He was much more than the Science Officer for the USS Enterprise. Leonard was a talented actor, director, philanthropist, and a gracious man dedicated to art in many forms.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and the legions of Star Trek fans around the world.”

From orbit, NASA’s Terry Virts and ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti took snaps of themselves making the familiar gesture of a raised hand with the palm forward, the thumb extended, and the fingers are parted between the middle and ring finger.

Cristoforetti, who sported a Star Trek badge, added her own poignant words, saying in a Tweet: “Of all the souls I have encountered.. his was the most human. Thanks @TheRealNimoy for bringing Spock to life for us.”