Sunday, 18 October 2015

When SKoST Talked to Larry - Part Two


Welcome to the second part of the Larry Nemecek interview!


In this conclusion (you can read the first part HERE) we're talking about Enterprise in Space plus, as filming draws to a close on Beyond, what are Larry's thoughts on the current state of Star Trek...


While PORTAL 47 and The Con of Wrath draw on Larry's history with the franchise, he's also linked in with the Enterprise in Space project. The Star Trek aficionado was asked to work with an array of teachers, engineers, and large-scale project managers—who, like their organizer from Oregon, all were inspired by Star Trek and optimistic sci-fi— as well as the National Space Society, which agreed to sponsor the project. The NSS (which has Buzz Aldrin in its ranks and previously included one Gene Roddenberry and wife Majel as governors) who can see a realistic and beneficial goal: to place an Enterprise into space. Since that first announcement, the project has now been endorsed by Rod Roddenberry and announced a partnering with the eMind cognitive computer technology to run the craft for controllers and students with experiments.

So what exactly is this all about? Big names are being linked, while anyone can sponsor and become a "virtual crew member"... but what's the point? What is this actually in aid of and what's the end result... because it does seem a lot to take in.




A contest to envisage the final eight-foot orbiter design ran last winter. Next will come the worldwide call to those students in "preschool to grad school" looking to place an experiment or project onboard the Enterprise, which will be also partnered to testing a paradigm-busting cognitive computer controller called eMind, re-entry techniques, and perhaps more —including new launch systems. Well, once it's had a run through space, the NSS Enterprise will potentially tour conventions and museums around the world before taking up residence at a major science museum. According to Trekland that could well be the Smithsonian. The fan-funded orbiter will also contain a microchip that will carry the name of all the donors onboard for the whole of the mission.

The lone $20 "virtual crewmember" funding looks like a great holiday gift or stocking stuffer, and the team at Enterprise in Space provides the giftee/honoree certificate download, and just as with any donor the name flies aboard on the microchip to be retrieved later and toured/displayed with the orbiter. After that simple start, other perks are set to come online as well —but don't mistake this for a typical short-term Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

So, far, $26 million in in-kind donations has been pledged from emerging space corporations eager to partner and test with the NSS Enterprise and its future-looking audience and spirit. The orbital mission is hoped to take a week during which the payload will be activated and educational programmes conducted. The experiments themselves will be both powered and unpowered, thus providing a range of different activities to be watched via onboard cameras which will provide internal and external views during the voyage. Enterprise in Space and the winning student projects will be placing "major emphasis" on STEAM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics — and thereby providing an incredible once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity to inspire the next generation and enhance their communication skills, analytical and critical thinking and knowledge of science and the processes involved.

"It's got a lot of parts," explained Larry. "Our Education Department is working on their curriculum, volunteers, outreach... and then on the Engineering side, one of our partners developing a mobile launch platform for the ocean has offered to that to us with no launch fees - that might save a third of the budget."

The E-Mind partnership with Value Spring Technologies is also going and they have now

signed off on the formal documents to use the cognitive computing "mind." "We just added our new video to the EIS website, showing off eMind being used for the NSS Enterprise target student audience," Larry says. "Janet Ivey of the Emmy-winning "Janet's Planet" student science series is now the face and voice of EMind's 'Ali' interface, and as the video shows this will be a big step toward the goal of gibing every student in the world their own talking computer tutor in the palm of their hand. It's getting a lot of people excited!"

The team is still getting the word out about the crowd-funding program to make Enterprise in Space come to life, but it is intended that there will also be some level of corporate involvement— which will mean not all of the project will have to be funded from generous individual donors. That still means that donor names will be on the ship and all the perks already announced will remain in place.
"One of the goals is about getting kids excited about space again." continued Larry. "We haven't unveiled the schools piece yet and delivered that out, so wecan't know yet what will be going on the ship. A lot of the aerospace industries and sideline industries are very excited because they have a lot of things that they want to sell to NASA and private space industry and need a demo but no-one higher will take a risk so this is perfect for them. Once they fly it they have a proof of concept."


Right now you can see the first videos up at the website, plus all the design and experiments contest info, volunteer and sponsor forms--and of course the simple "virtual crew" donate button at www.enterpriseinspace.org or drop onto Twitter and follow @EnterpriseSat. Volunteers — from social media and local events all the way up to professional skills—are all welcomed.

From this stunning project our conversation turned to the future and the way in which the Star Trek franchise is going due to the direction of its latest custodians.

"On one hand, when the Berman era ended the perception in Hollywood was that Star Trek was tired and needed a rest." recalled Larry, "The reality was that Rick and Brannon needed a rest and that could have been avoided in certain ways."

"I was worried about the fallow time, but at that time (around 2005) the fan films were exploding and along with those, what has filled in the gap years has been blogs, podcasts, cartoon memes, cosplaying, CGI, model-building and a whole lot more. People can put their stuff online for all to see and comment on. They can get hired for jobs from it and it's become such a whole different world for fan potential and passion. But, we are back in that mindset as we were in the 1970's when fans were saying, "Well if you're not going to make any more, I'm just going to make it myself (i.e. fanzines).

As for "official" Star Trek Beyond on the big screen ? "I was looking forward to seeing

Bob Orci running Star Trek in his own stead, without JJ Abrams, but now I'm curious to see how Justin Lin will direct. People make a mistake when they underestimate him or don't look beyond his Fast and Furious film. Simon Pegg has a finely honed sense of humour and is an old fan who has Star Trek in their heart. A piece of me says it could crash and burn, but at least it will be different! But I'm truly optimistic to see what happens.

"With any Star Trek on big screen, a movie franchise reality means there are some inevitable tweaks which drive fans who are used to 26-episode seasons crazy (changes in tricorders, phasers, uniforms etc...), but these producers and designers always want to do 'better' than they did three years before. Pegg and Lin and their team are saying some of the right things, and with good intentions I hope that the premiere deadline (which has changed since we spoke) doesn't become a sabotaging factor and mean they can't deliver the movie they want, much less one that was bad to begin with. I've made peace with the alternative universe, and at least Prime lives out there somewhere.

"I will say that I've always been impressed that the "JJverse" incarnation was so well cast

and the fact that it's brought tons of fresh new fans in. A lot of new people told me they saw the JJ movies and then latched onto The Original Series, watched The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise and totally bought into the rest of it. A couple of people even don't care much for the JJ movies after getting into the 700 plus episodes. The Netflix access plus the DVDs, the Blu-rays and the remastering has also brought in new fans."
As for Larry, the future holds the possibility of some voice-over work, much more Trekland as well as that new Portal 47 and the Geek Nation Tours which look set to take in even more key Star Trek locations across the US. So there doesn't look to be any grass growing for Star Trek's most well-known afficionado....!

For more information on Larry Nemecek you'd better go seek out Trekland this instant!

Big thanks to Larry for all his time chatting to me and in the production of this article. 


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