I know this sounds off topic, but bear with me. This is a question about real world space agencies.

Is it well established that Star Trek follows naval tradition. For example its ranks come from USN. Ships share names with real Earth vessels, etc.

I was surprised that the contingency speech on the death of the Apollo 11 astronauts contained

AFTER THE PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT, AT THE POINT WHEN NASA ENDS COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE MEN: A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to "the deepest of the deep," concluding with the Lord's Prayer.


So this led me to the question: This speech was from after the Star Trek aired. So were there other established traditions for using naval terminology and procedures at NASA before Star Trek (1966) ?


Well yes, most early NASA astronauts / pilots were naval aviators, so there would be many US Navy terms and procedures adopted from there, for example the go/no-go polling that was used on aircraft carriers to scramble war birds into the air. That was already used during the Project Mercury and later Project Gemini that ended in 1966. So both were before 1966 and Star Trek.

Just to clarify, when I say "most were naval aviators", I mean with that US Navy and US Marine Corps (and technically also US Coast Guard, but none of the early NASA astronauts came from there). Here's a list of the Mercury Seven:

  • Malcolm Scott Carpenter (1925–2013), USN
  • Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr. (1927–2004), USAF
  • John Herschel Glenn, Jr. (1921–), USMC
  • Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (1926–1967), USAF
  • Walter Marty "Wally" Schirra, Jr. (1923–2007), USN
  • Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (1923–1998), USN
  • Donald Kent "Deke" Slayton (1924–1993), USAF

So out of these seven, four were naval aviators, and three were US Air Force pilots. Slightly in favor of naval aviators. During Project Gemini, this score shifted in favor of USAF pilots:

  • L. Gordon Cooper, USAF
  • Virgil "Gus" Grissom, USAF
  • Walter M. Schirra, USN
  • Neil A. Armstrong, Civilian
  • Frank Borman, USAF
  • Charles "Pete" Conrad, USN
  • James A. Lovell, USN
  • James A. McDivitt, USAF
  • Thomas P. Stafford, USAF
  • Edward H. White II, USAF
  • John W. Young, USN
  • Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, USAF
  • Eugene A. Cernan, USN
  • Michael Collins, USAF
  • Richard F. Gordon, USN
  • David R. Scott, USAF

So Project Gemini had 9 USAF pilots, 6 USN and one civilian pilot. First three in the list were Project Mercury veterans. But naval aviators still remain well represented all the way to 1966.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So the ONE civilian from Mercury and Gemini was the one who got to walk first on the moon? CONSPIRACY! $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Feb 10 '15 at 17:57
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Armstrong was a naval officer, highly decorated at the young age of 22, when he retired. He then went on to fly jets in the National Gaurd and as a test pilot he flew the X-1B and X-15. No consipiracy, Armstrong was just a modest guy. $\endgroup$ – Jasmine Feb 10 '15 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ @corsiKa: Conspiracy? Presumably you're being humorous. That said, while I forget where I read it, there is at least some evidence that it was by design, to be in line with the "We came in peace..." idea; it's easier to argue that what you are doing is for peaceful purposes if the military involvement is minimized. However, it seems that NASA was being open about things, although maybe not loudly so, so as not to offend anyone. $\endgroup$ – GreenMatt Jul 17 '19 at 16:55

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