One of the more philosophical Star Trek movies was Star Trek: The Motion Picture released in 1979. The plot line wrestled with what makes humans human; what makes a machine a machine; what makes a sentient being sentient; and what might happen when an alien race encounters a human-made probe. The story revolved around a Voyager space probe (the fictional Voyager 6) that had been repaired by unknown inhabitants of an unknown solar system before being sent back to earth to find its creator. Commander Spock gets the most important line in the movie. In a rare expression of human emotions Spock cries for V’Ger and says, “Each of us… at some time in our lives, turns to someone – a father, a brother, a God… and asks…’Why am I here? What was I meant to be?'”1
These words came to me once more as I read the news that Voyager 1 had left our solar system (the first of two actual Voyager vessels) making it the first human-made object to explore interstellar space.2 Originally launched on September 5th, 1977, it is an example of “boldly going where no one has gone before.” Crossing the boundary into this territory places Voyager into space in which the dominance of our star finally fades to imperceptible levels and allows for the measurement of interstellar magnetic fields, galactic particles, and high energy plasma ejected from other stars. Such measurements will enhance our perception of the universe and contribute to our understanding of fundamental questions like “Why am I here?” and “What was I meant to be?”
1 Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Directed by Robert Wise. Performed by Leonard Nimoy. 1979.