An investigation and celebration of Americans' fascination with space. The legion of jokes that circulated in the wake of the Challenger space shuffle disaster helped alleviate the shock and horror of very public death. But as the jokes demonstrate, they also revealed a widely held prejudice that space is no place for a woman. And yet, as this wry and highly readable investigation of the role of space travel in popular imagination argues, the relationship between space and sex is more complicated than it first appears. NASA itself, in a scramble to protect its funding, has turned to icons of popular culture which play fast and loose with sexual stereotypes. Nowhere is this more evident than in the space agency's open borrowing from the hugely popular Star Trek. The test model for the shuttle was named after the starship Enterprise, NASA personnel name their computers after Spock, and NASA hired Lieutenant Uhura to assist in its recruitment of women and minorities. Meanwhile Star Trek is reshaped by networks of women fans producing samizdat porno-romance fanzines that star Spock and Captain Kirk in a homosexual relationship. Completing the orbit, the subversions of the fans are reintegrated by the show's producers. In one movie, Kirk approaches Spock, arms extended for a manly embrace. "Please, Captain," the ever proper Spock demurs, "not in front of the KIingons." In much witty detail, Penley illustrates Star Trek fans' criticisms of the show's inability to include women -- and issues of sex and sexuality -- in the world of science and technology. NASA, too, fails in the same way. To counter official versions of science, the fans propose instead a popular science that boldly goes where no one has gone before but which remains answerable to human needs and social desires. Standing four square in the American utopian tradition, it maintains that scientific experimentation should be accompanied by social and sexual experimentation, and devoted to exploring inner as well as outer space.
"Going into space with NASA/TREK is a good read and a good ride into uncharted regions of technoculture. In Pentley's hands, popular science is a place to launch an inquiry into moral cultural and political stakes in a world 'where no man has gone before'." - Donna Haraway "NASA/TREK is happily both enjoyable and insightful, and explores some intricate correspondences between science and sex. Among other things it offers a new a persuasive analysis of a populist subgenre: 'slash' fiction". - Samuel R. Delany