Canadian actor William Shatner, best known as Star Trek's Captain Kirk, hailed the International Space Station and chatted with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield this morning about the risks faced in space and rumours that Hadfield has volunteered to go to Mars.
Over the casual, 10-minute conversation, Shatner asked Hadfield about the dangers of going into space, especially to a place such as Mars.
Hadfield, whose side of the conversation was broadcast over a video link, responded that people like him are inspired to take such risks by both the astronauts that have come before him and fictional ones such as Star Trek's Captain Kirk.
"The risks are infinitely worthwhile," he added.
Hadfield didn't directly address whether he had volunteered to go to Mars, but said he thinks it is "inevitable" that some astronaut one day will. "It's just a matter of when we figure out how."
Kirk asked Hadfield how he has coped with fear while working as both a test pilot and an astronaut. Hadfield likened the fear to that of an actor not knowing his script, and said he coped by making sure he always "knew my lines."
Shatner pointed out that the consequences of making a mistake are not comparable in the two jobs.
"In my case, your face flushes and you get a sheen of flop sweat," he said. "In your case, you burn up. It's a little different."
Hadfield responded with a laugh, "Well, in both cases, you go down in flames — one's figurative and one is not."
Shatner also asked Hadfield about being away from Earth for six months: "That's a long time to be away, is it not?"
Hadfield admitted that it was, but said the advanced communications seen in Star Trek have come to pass.
"You think about the stuff that was portrayed on television 40 years ago of people with a small hand-held device, standing on the surface of a planet talking to someone effortlessly, who is orbiting that planet. That's what you and I are doing right now."
That lets him stay in touch with his friends and family, he said.
"So it's not that much different than just being on a long business trip."
As the two wrapped up their conversation, Hadfield invited Shatner to meet him face-to-face at his Ontario cottage.
Shatner seemed to like that idea.
"I look forward to meeting you in person and sitting down with a whisky and a cigar," he said.
Shatner first connected to Hadfield via Twitter on Jan. 3, asking, "Are you tweeting from space?"
Hadfield responded, "Yes, Standard Orbit, Captain. And we're detecting signs of life on the surface."
Hadfield blasted off for the space station on Dec. 19 and will become the first Canadian to take over as its commander, in March. He is expected to return to Earth on May 14.