Frontiers Conference at the University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh researchers play a leading role in a White House conference, co-hosted by Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, on the future of innovation.

Space Exploration and the Thriving American Space Industry

It was perfectly fitting that Rod Roddenberry Jr. delivered opening remarks this morning during the White House Frontiers Conference session, “Space Exploration and the Thriving American Space Industry.”

The son of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek series, Roddenberry needed little prompting to invoke the most beloved of all time science-fiction space show.

“Ladies and gentlemen and fellow humans,” he began. “It's great to be here today and I’m incredibly humbled to be surrounded by some of our planet’s great minds.” 

“I have a background in science -- it’s just not based in reality,” he said as the audience chuckled. 

An American television producer, Roddenberry is also CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment, which creates and produces science fiction novels, comics, and television and film projects, Trek Nation. The 2011 documentary was filmed through Roddenberry’s eyes and looks at the positive impact his father had on people’s lives.

Roddenberry spoke with excitement about the vast potential for humans in space. And his remarks made clear his larger hope that as humans make more daring leaps into space, it will help foster cooperation and openness among people and nations. After all, he said, Star Trek was “about so much more than science fiction.”

Just ask President Obama.

Roddenberry played a video clip of President Obama discussing his favorite TV series.

“I was a sucker for Star Wars when I was a kid. …What made the show lasting was that it wasn’t about technology. It was about values and human relationships. It didn’t matter that special effects were kind of cheesy and bad. It was talking about a notion of a common humanity,” Obama said.

Roddenberry has formed the Roddenberry Foundation, which supports innovative approaches—both big and small—to addressing some of the world’s largest problems, such as hunger, poverty, prejudice and greed.

As the foundation website says, the organization is “committed to advancing Gene [Roddenberry’s] faith in humanity by finding and supporting remarkable people and organizations who can disrupt existing dynamics, challenge old patterns of thought, and discover new ways to help us move toward a better future.”

“It’s about time for another great leap for mankind,” Roddenberry said.

Check back for more updates from the White House Frontiers Conference. 

—Jane-Ellen Robinet