In S01E04 of Star Trek: Discovery TV series:

Paul Stamets: Time is an essential component of good science.
Captain Lorca: Discovery is no longer a science vessel. It's a warship.
Paul Stamets: That is not the mission I signed on for. I'm not a soldier.
Captain Lorca: Well, then get off. Leave the ship.
Paul Stamets: If I go, I'm taking everything with me. My spores, my drive. This entire ship was designed around my scientific specialty.
Captain Lorca: Everything on this ship is the property of Starfleet, Lieutenant. How do you wanna be remembered in history? Alongside the Wright Brothers, Elon Musk, Zefram Cochrane? Or as a failed fungus expert? A selfish little man who put the survival of his own ego before the lives of others.

Well, Wright Brothers are inventor of airplane and Zefram Cochrane is inventor of warp drive. But, why is Elon Musk a big historic figure comparable to Wright Brothers and Zefram Cochrane? What did he do?

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    I'd say its a pretty fair bet that he is referring to our Elon Musk, otherwise you could make the same argument about the wright brothers. That said, Elon Musk has yet to do anything to put himself in quite the same category of advancing human endeavour as the Wright Brothers or the fictitious Zefram Cochrane are known for.
    – Jack
    Oct 10, 2017 at 5:24
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    He founded the first Mars colony. Naturally.
    – Adamant
    Oct 10, 2017 at 8:58
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    @Adamant The first martian colonies were founded by some ancestors of Captain J.L. Picard
    – Sekhemty
    Oct 10, 2017 at 10:33
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    I can recommend not thinking too much about inconsistencies like the Eugenic Wars, If you start thinking too much about it, it spoils the fun, and if the showrunners decided to come up with some retrofit, it will most likely be not satisfactory. Remember that we used to silently ignore inconsistencies before, like the Trill between TNG and DS9, or the Klingons between TOS and TNG (until the awful retrofit)
    – Philipp
    Oct 10, 2017 at 10:52
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    Referring to currently living people and events was not a good decision IMHO. If time shows that Musk is actually a scam artist or an genocidal maniac, or fails spectacularly in some way, there could be a big cognitive dissonance for future audiences. Unless they release a special edition. Oct 10, 2017 at 13:52

5 Answers 5


This is an example of a narrative device that occurs in quite a few Star Trek episodes. A character lists three historical examples relevant to the events of the current story - one a real world historical event, another a reasonably plausible near-future event, and finally something completely fictitious referring to the far-future or alien worlds. For example, in the TNG episode The High Ground, Data has this to say on terrorism:

Yet there are numerous examples when it was successful: the independence of the Mexican state from Spain, the Irish Unification of 2024, and the Kenzie Rebellion.

The first example grounds the debate in reality, the second offers speculation on how our world will progress, and the third hints at a wider world with its own history beyond what we see. The Elon Musk reference falls into the second category - the show is saying that while he hasn’t done anything of Wright Brothers-level notability yet, sometime in the next few decades one of his ambitious plans is going to pay off and put him in that category.

  • 1
    Excellent first answer! Welcome! Oct 11, 2017 at 0:41
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    This is a great observation, but I'm not sure it answers the question being asked, i.e. what Elon Musk is speculated to have done. Oct 11, 2017 at 7:56

the Wright brothers flew the first aeroplane, that is Real life.

Cochrane invented warp drive, that is fiction (for us).

By adding Elon Musk, they place the show not as much in an alternate universe that happens to have the Wright brothers in their history. But it tries to place the show in our future.

Obviously, they assume Musk will be successful with his space program. But hey, it's a nice nod to current events.

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    Do you have any confirmation that suggest they intend for Musk's inventions to be about the space program?
    – Edlothiad
    Oct 10, 2017 at 13:45
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    there is no confirmation yet in the form of interviews with the directors and/or actors a s far as I know. But considering Musk has the SpaceX program that plans to have humans on Mars in 2024... They probably assume it'll be somewhat of a success Oct 10, 2017 at 13:49
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    @HermienScholten - SpaceX is already a success in terms of being historically significant. Whether or not they achieve their ambition of getting to Mars, they have already achieved a revolution in the launch industry which will have a long-term impact on human capabilities in space.
    – Simba
    Oct 10, 2017 at 15:18
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    @Simba I agree, but to be put on the same level as Cochrane in-universe, I assume they're trying to imply a bigger influence, like a Mars mission. But I digress. Musk will probably already show up in history IRL as significant, I agree on that Oct 10, 2017 at 15:22
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    Musk's space program being successful would make the list a nice progression: Wright Brothers>practical in-atmosphere flight, Elon Musk>practical flight within the solar system, Zefram Cochrane>practical flight between solar systems
    – Nolimon
    Oct 10, 2017 at 19:31

The Eugenics Wars (or the Great Wars) were a series of conflicts fought on Earth between 1992 and 1996. The result of a scientific attempt to improve the Human race through selective breeding and genetic engineering, the wars devastated parts of Earth, by some estimates officially causing some thirty million deaths, and nearly plunging the planet into a new Dark Age. (TOS: "Space Seed"; ENT: "Borderland")

Rising from the ashes of the Eugenics Wars of the mid-1990s, the era of World War III was a period of global conflict on Earth that eventually escalated into a nuclear cataclysm and genocidal war over issues including genetic manipulation and Human genome enhancement. World War III itself ultimately lasted from 2026 through 2053, and resulted in the death of some six hundred million Humans. By that time, many of the planet's major cities and governments had been destroyed.

Between 1996 to 2026, 30 years for Star Trek Universe version of Elon Musk to do something amazing, is unlikely since there was a mess after The Eugenics War: "new dark ages". All in all just a name drop to stay hip.

Source: Memory Alpha

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If you're not aware, Musk is pushing for Mars colonization. While he's not the only one, I would say he's got the most realistic view to date, complete with a company that, you know, already builds and launches rockets. If he pulls this bold vision off (which is still a really big if) he really will go down in history alongside people like Neal Armstrong.

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During a 40-minute talk in a theater, Musk spent considerable time sharing technical details about the "BFR" system, which includes a reusable rocket with 31 Raptor engines and a staggeringly tall 48-meter spacecraft. It seems that SpaceX hasn't quite yet come up with an acceptable name for the system. Last year, it was the Interplanetary Transport System, but now Musk has regressed to using the original, cheeky "code name" BFR, in which the B stands for big, the R stands for rocket, and the F stands for fun. (Not really).

The rocket, which would stand 106 meters tall, would have the capability to lift 150 tons to low Earth orbit under its fully reusable mode. It would have nearly double that in an expendable capacity, but Musk envisions flying the BFR for mostly reusable flights. Certainly, a rocket with 31 engines seems unwieldy, but later this year, or in early 2018, SpaceX will likely fly its Falcon Heavy rocket. It will be powered by 27 Merlin engines, which although smaller and less powerful, will nonetheless provide a test case for managing so many engines in flight.

I would say Discovery's bet on future famous space pioneers is the most sound they could make.

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    NASA has got most realistic view with its Orion project (human on Mars by 2030), not Elon Musk. Mars One is a bluff and marketing. But, SpaceX's Mars colonization project is not even that. All we have got is a concept video of human landing on Mars by 2022 (and then, 100 million people in 50 years). Commercially launching satellites into orbit is one thing (BTW, it's not cheaper than India's ISRO satellite launching), and pioneering a new field is another.
    – user931
    Oct 11, 2017 at 3:52
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    I'm not saying Musk has no challenges. But saying NASA has a better plan is incorrect. Their SLS rocket is at least 2 years away from a test flight (for a mostly expendable rocket). And it's billions over budget for a system that costs at least $2B to launch anything. Finally, NASA has no time frame or funding for a Mars mission. If Falcon 9 Heavy has a successful test flight, the chances Musk could pull it off go up considerably.
    – Machavity
    Oct 11, 2017 at 12:15

Elon Musk,the Chief Design Engineer of SpaceX has made landing 14 stories tall 1st stages look easy when many were saying it was impossible, not to mention he has reused two of those landed boosters so far and has thus far turned the entire rocket launch industry on it’s ear sending them (investors and entrepreneurs) scrambling by reducing launch costs dramatically.

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    Which is impressive, but not necessarily Wright Brothers / Zephram Cochrane impressive.
    – Politank-Z
    Oct 10, 2017 at 18:20
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    Agreed, but if Musk attains full reusability which is not that much of a leap then he will most certainly earn that status… He has shown us the way forward just as the Wright Brothers did and as Zephram Cochrane did in Star Trek... Oct 10, 2017 at 23:31

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