William Shatner's Name is Traveling To The Sun On a High Tech Solar Probe
Because a large chunk of current NASA employees probably grew up watching Star Trek, Shatner is occasionally asked to help out NASA with publicity stunts. The most recent of which was a campaign to promote public interest in NASA's Parker Solar Probe, a soon-to-be-launched space probe which will brush up against the sun's outer atmosphere (called its corona) to study our local star in greater detail than ever before.
Beyond carrying measuring tools and some extremely powerful heat shielding, the Parker Solar Probe will also launch with a microchip containing several names from the public which NASA has promised to "send to the sun." Since Shatner was the big spokesperson for this campaign while it ran through April 2018, his name was naturally listed first on the microchip.
So while Shatner's likely never going into space unless we make some major improvements in space travel very soon, his name will be visiting the sun later this year, going where no name has gone before.
As the probe successfully completes the last of its many tests and inspections, it's set to launch from Cape Canaveral on July 31, 2018. The microchip, just like the rest of the probe, will be well protected: the car-sized probe will be shielded by a 4.5 inch (11.5 centimeter) thick plating made of carbon composite, designed to withstand the approximately 2500 degrees Fahrenheit (1370 degrees Celsius) of the sun's corona.
With the probe, NASA hopes to learn more about the sun's still-mysterious weather patterns and other quirks which we've never understood, like why the outer corona seems to be hotter than the sun's surface. And that's where Shatner and the approximately 1,137,000 other people who added their names to the microchip's list will end up (in a sense).
All aboard! A memory card containing 1,137,202 names submitted from all over the world was mounted onto a plaque and installed on Parker #SolarProbe on May 18. Read more and find out what other data will make the trip: https://t.co/ejaSuAB1Gh pic.twitter.com/RTC5hZpbMd— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) May 21, 2018
Interestingly, this isn't the first time Shatner has "gone to space" either. Last year, NASA "beamed" a voice message from Shatner to the Voyager 1 probe in interstellar space for its 40th anniversary.
Because if anyone gets to have their voice in space, Captain Kirk always seems like the first choice.