Written by: on March 22, 2021 @ 8:00 am

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating,
Live Long and Prosper Day
March 26th

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

If you were ever a fan of Start Trek, the phrase, “Live Long and Prosper” is a familiar one. Often spoken by Starship Enterprise’s resident Vulcan and scientist, driven strictly by logic, Mr. Spock. As we celebrate this special day and meaningful phrase, we take a look at the pop culture icon that is Mr. Spock, but also the history behind the sentiment and the long-lasting impact of these simple words. 

The greeting, “Live Long and Prosper” is an abbreviated version of a traditional Jewish religious blessing. It is translated from the Vulcan language phrase, ‘dif-tor heh smusma‘, which was so uttered in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The phrase echoes the Hebrew ‘Shalom aleichem’ and the Arabic ‘Salaam alaykum’, which roughly translate as ‘peace be upon you’.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Leonard Nimoy’s hand demonstrating the Vulcan Salute

In the Star Trek television series, the phrase was the spoken greeting/blessing that accompanied the hand gesture called the Vulcan Salute.

In his 1975 autobiography, I am not Spock, Leonard Nimoy, who was Jewish, wrote that he based the Vulcan Salute on the Priestly blessing performed by Jewish Kohanim with both hands, thumb to thumb in this same position, representing the Hebrew letter Shin (ש), which has three upward strokes similar to the position of the thumb and fingers in the gesture. The letter Shin here stands for El Shaddai, meaning “Almighty God”, as well as for Shalom. Nimoy wrote that when he was a child, his grandfather took him to an Orthodox synagogue, where he saw the blessing performed and was impressed by it.

Due to its popularity and impact on pop culture, the Vulcan Salute became a permanent fixture in written language with a dedicated Unicode Standard (U+1F596 🖖) and emoji symbol. The emoji’s American English short name is “vulcan salute” with keywords “finger”, “hand”, “spock”, and “vulcan”.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Terry W. Virts from ISS

The White House referenced the Vulcan Salute in its statement on Leonard Nimoy’s death, calling it “the universal sign for ‘Live long and prosper'”. The following day, NASA astronaut Terry W. Virts posted a photo on his twitter feed from the International Space Station (ISS) showing the Salute as the ISS passed over Nimoy’s birthplace of Boston, Massachusetts.

Because of their common theme of space exploration, NASA has had perhaps the most intimate connection with Star Trek of any government agency. NASA even has a section of its website dedicated to the relationship between NASA & Star Trek. On the 50th anniversary of the show’s final episode, NASA published an article detailing 50 years of NASA and Star Trek connections!

The first NASA space shuttle was called the Enterprise named after the Star Fleet’s most famous Starship in response to a letter-writing campaign from fans of the television show. The Star Trek cast and crew even visited NASA’s Dryden (now Armstrong) Research Center for a photo opportunity when the Enterprise was rolled out.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Star Trek Cast with Enterprise Space Shuttle

Many Americans have been inspired to become astronauts after watching Star Trek, and some astronauts have even made guest appearances on the show. The casting of African American actress Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura broadcast a powerful message about the position of minorities and women during the height of the civil rights movement; Nichols even actively recruited a diverse crew of new astronauts in real life, including Guion Bluford (the first African American astronaut), Sally Ride (the first female American astronaut), Judith Resnick and Ronald McNair.  Mae Jemison was inspired to become the first African American woman in space, and later Jemison became the first real astronaut to appear in a role on Star Trek when she played Lt. Palmer in 1993.

In his article, The Science of Star Trek, NASA scientist David Allen Batchelor explores various features of Star Trek according to how scientifically accurate or inaccurate they are, and comments upon the feasibility of the show’s inventions. In some cases, these inventions had already been achieved!

Immediately following Leonard Nimoy’s death on February 27, 2015, there were many tributes shared by those who were inspired by his achievements both on and off the television and movie screen. U.S. Representative Adam B. Schiff submitted his personal tribute to Mr. Spock which can be found in the official congressional record.  

Therefore, in the words of the beloved Mr. Spock, “Live Long & Prosper”!

Whether your love of space is limited to the fictional world of Star Trek or the real-life exploration of space & the final frontier, try this week’s at-home experiment and make your very own STEM Satellite! Find the lesson plan and supply list below.

STEM Satellite Lesson Plan:

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