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Friday, 28 February 2014

Destination Star Trek Frankfurt!

Have you ever been to a Star Trek convention? Well, until last weekend, neither had I/ edit In an odd turn of events, I found out about a Star Trek convention in Frankfurt, Germany, and quickly organizing myself and a few others, we ended up going where none of us had gone before!
The first thing I did was ask my friend Adrian if he wanted to go. I knew he was pretty nerdy and, more economically important, I knew his family had an extra apartment they often rented out in Frankfurt. We had stayed there before, as you can read about here, so I thought if it was available, we wouldn't have to worry about lodging while on the trip.

Keeping the event quiet until I heard more from Adrian, I actually forgot about it. Life at the ISU has been pretty busy so it was easy to get lost in the day-to-day activities. I heard back from Adrian that the apartment would be available, but only to a limited number of us. Three other friends heard us speaking and asked if they could come, and with 5 people being the limiting number, we made plans.

I kept any excitement for the event until the day of departure. Gathering ourselves, we bought some groceries for the trip and looked forward to getting away from the weekend. The train was on time, of course, and we began our adventure!
José, Trisha, myself, and Andrew waiting for the train. Adrian took a lot of our pictures
The trains to/from Frankfurt are nice, not as fancy as I imagine the Orient Express to be, but well-designed and spacious enough. As mentioned earlier, this time we had first-class tickets which meant we had our own private booth. Bringing my laptop with me, as well as my Star Trek hard drive, we watched episodes from Star Trek: The Next Generation along the way! Specifically, we watched "Q Who" and "The Best of Both Worlds" wherein the Enterprise encounters the Borg, because those episodes are incredible!
The Enterprise meets the Borg
Sir Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, or should I say Locutus
Arriving at Frankfurt, we took a quick look around outside, posing for a picture before finally reaching Adrian's apartment in Kronberg.

Dropping off our stuff, we walked over to the only restaurant in the area. A nice place, Adrian and I had eaten there last time, and we found the place exactly as we had left it. Ordering pizzas, German beer, Sprite (for me) and calzones, we laughed and felt more relaxed than we had in some time. Trisha presented Adrian with a gift, thanking him for helping make the trip possible, the gift being the card game Dirty Minds.

Leaving feeling light-hearted, but with heavy stomachs, we noticed this sign outside and debated the orbital elements like the true space nerds we are!

Laughing our way back to Adrian's apartment, we watched another episode of Star Trek before heading to bed.

Awaking bright, if not extremely early, we all enjoyed not having access to the Internet. While all of us wanted to be able to check our mail, we were also glad to not get any of the dozens of emails we get at the ISU every day. Donning my Star Trek Original Series red Engineering shirt, we were on our way to the convention!

The convention took place in the Messe, a beautiful building which really fit the part of a house of science fiction. It was hard to take pictures of the interior architecture, but it had tall ceilings, which arched from one end to the other, and metallic fixtures and beams running all along it. It totally set the scene for what was within.

When we got inside, the first thing I noticed was the music. Greeting us at the door was the soundtrack to the new Star Trek franchise, and adorning the walls, we saw posters from Original Series episodes. I could have spent quite a lot of time taking my picture with every single one of them, but with much to see and do, I tore myself away.
I love this episode, and this photo!

Next, we passed by some merchandise, with one booth containing more patches than I had ever seen before in one place.

And right after, we saw some people playing a large version of Star Trek: Settlers of Catan, which I have never played, but must say it looks like fun!

Some of the events taking place, notice especially Mars One which I'll talk about soon
A couple of Borg regeneration stations
Trisha and Seven of Nine
José and his wandering hand, haha.
Remember the Batman theme song? Well, the periodic name for the element sodium is spelled 'Na', hence the joke.
The typewriter Gene Roddenberry used for writing Star Trek: The Motion Picture!
After having a little fun posing for pictures, we made our way over to what we later learned to be the exhibit of the world's largest Star Trek prop and costume collector!

Uniform from the Original Series movies
Star Trek manual and Medical Kit
Star Trek: The Next Generation LCARS touch screen
I was shocked at this one. It's from a single Star Trek: Enterprise episode in which the crew went to a mirrored, dark universe
Captain Teddy, haha.
A Star Trek: Enterprise phaserbank!
A Star Trek: Enterprise photon torpedo, and phaserbank
Elaborate Borg costume
Since most of the stars were signing autographs, posing for photos in specific areas, or being closed doors, we looked around and ended up finding these cardboard cut outs/"standees" of many of our favourite Star Trek characters!

Dr. Beverly Crusher, Patricia "Trish" Randazzo, and Captain Kathryn Janeway
Andrew Alexander and Deanna Troi
Andrew, Deanna, and José (I wonder if José knows that she knows what he's doing)
For some reason, the Worf standee was 3-4 feet taller than the rest
This was when we started getting silly.
A good look I think.
Not sure if Trish agrees.
Couple of people had some really authentic-looking uniforms. I like Janeway peeking in from the side.
She'll never admit it, but I think she was jealous
José and a Ferengi

After our silliness, we made our way over to one of the stages and waited for the Mars One presentation. I have spoken about Mars One in earlier posts, but essentially, they are a not-for-profit organization from the Netherlands looking to be the first to send people to Mars. Their call for astronauts brought in over 200 000 applications! Mars One is especially interesting to half of the MSS14 ISU students this year as we are investigating one-way missions to Mars, missions whereby humans would go and settle the Red Planet. The topic has been discussed quite a bit in fiction but not seriously planned, until now.

The presentation was interesting and did not really tell us anything new, but we did have a chance to ask questions, and ask we did! We asked specifics concerning launch mass, radiation and microgravity countermeasures, and someone we did not know asked a really good question concerning the international legal status concerning such a mission. Mars One has me excited, but also concerned. Their networking and fundraising campaign, as well as their enthusiasm, inspires me, and helps me continue the hope that humanity will keep striving for bigger and better things, however, not a lot of work has been published/released from Mars One so the technical/ethical/managerial aspects still seem fuzzy at this point. However, we had a chance to meet the CEO, who looks forward to seeing the results of our work this year at the ISU!

Afterward, Trish, Andrew, and I made our way over to the photography area where we waited to get our pictures taken with LeVar Burton! (aka Geordi La Forge) I had already had my photo taken with a few other members of the Star Trek: TNG cast so I was looking forward to a moment with a fellow space engineer, or at least someone who played one on TV.

The lineup moved too quickly. There were so many people who wanted a photo that we barely had two seconds with him. Like much of life, the moment was over as soon as it began, but it was incredibly nice and I am glad to have met him. We wanted to tell him that we were part of the ISU and working on cool space stuff but there was barely any time. We mentioned it out loud as we walked away and Mr. Burton's security guard seemed interested and said he would tell Mr. Burton. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, it was a nice gesture and I'd like to believe he did. I have some news coming up, which I have been keeping to myself, which relates to this moment, something I wanted to tell LeVar Burton, but there was no time in the moment, and for you, well, you'll just have to wait a little longer. (Maybe a week or two, but trust me, it's worth the wait!)

The final part of the day was the most exciting, I think. There was a replica of the bridge of the Enterprise-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation and we all had bought tickets to have our pictures taken on it. Because we all had tickets, we were able to take 5 pictures together!

Waiting in line, we worked out what we wanted to do. We watched as families sat in the chairs, tapped at consoles, husbands, wives, and children taking their turn in the Captain's chair. And then it was our turn.

We started off with José's picture, in which he wanted everyone to look pretty for him.

After the camera flashed, we all stood up and looked at each other. Taking command, I yelled, "Everyone! Look disappointed!" At which point, we ran around, taking positions.

"Everyone, look nice!"

"Okay, look busy!"

"Play dead!"

These photos were so much fun to do, and while it was fast, they were mostly well-coordinated. I especially liked how much fun the photographer was having. Obviously, our energy was contagious and we had everyone laughing and clapping as we ran around. This last one is particularly funny because when I said to play dead, Adrian (see in the back left), just dropped to the floor where he was. Unfortunately, he was out of frame and the camera person was giggling and trying to tell him. Finally, he got up and ran around the bridge.

I will post the LeVar Burton pictures later when I have better digital copies of them. The rest of the weekend passed quite pleasantly. We went on a few walks, enjoyed more Star Trek episodes, and had some nice train rides back. It was a beautiful weekend and all the better spent in the company of friends, away from responsibility. I personally felt very refreshed upon coming back and was really glad to have gone.

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