After 50 years of enthusiastic support for boldly going into the unknown, William Shatner was finally formally honoured by NASA with a Distinguished Public Service Medal. This highest honour has been awarded to only a handful of people for their support of space exploration.

NASA Loves Shatner, For Good Reason

The original space cowboy William Shatner receiving his medal from NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Bob Jacobs. Image Credit: NASA

The Distinguished Public Service Medal is the highest honour that NASA can bestow on anyone outside the government's employment. The citation reads, "For outstanding generosity and dedication to inspiring new generations of explorers around the world, and for unwavering support for NASA and its missions of discovery." Shatner is an irrepressible advocate for NASA's mission of exploration, and just possibly for all the cool technology that we get as a delightful side-effect.

The positive relationship between NASA and Star Trek started early. Most recently, Shatner volunteered his voice to host the NASA documentary on the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle, and as one of the final wake-up calls for the astronauts of the STS-133 mission. He even got involved with the charming Martian rovers, narrating a preview of Curiosity's dramatic arrival to the red planet.

Aside from the formal volunteer service, Shatner is a culture-creator embracing the joy of science, in his words and his work. Sure, Star Trek has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to techno-babble, but how many scientists and engineers working today were directly inspired by watching Shatner and his crew explore the unknown? More than that, he continues to be an advocate for current science fiction shows, lending his charisma to build ratings for scifi television. Quantifying his contributions to supporting the development of proto-scientists is tricky, but qualitatively it's clear that through his efforts, science is a little bit more cool than it could have been.

Congratulations, Captain. This honour is well-deserved, and a long time coming.

Need more? Here's a snippet of real-life Star Trek science.