07/20/2005 07:59 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Beam Us Up Scotty -- One Last Time

"Beam me up, Scotty." "There's no intelligent life down here."

Canvassing the headlines, and looking at a world where science often loses the battles to superstition, it's hard to completely disagree.

But this entry is not about today's passing of the ultimate engineer-Star Trek's Scotty. Or, as he was named at birth, James Doohan.

No, this entry is about the life and legacy of this extraordinary character, and the actor that brought him to reality for so many.

Over the years, I have read dozens of testimonials from Astronauts, and NASA engineers. The testimonials converge on one central claim: that "Star Trek" -- especially the orginal show - was where they first got a taste of the wonders of space science, and perhaps, even, space travel.

In fact, Dr. Mae Jamieson, the first African-American woman astronaut, credited the character Uhuru (played by Nichele Nichols) for inspiring her to take up space exploration as a career.

And, on this day when Scotty was beamed up one last time, it is fitting to remember that it was Scotty who made the ship go from here to there. Often, by means of a flexible mind that was able to improvise tech workarounds - literally on the fly.

So it was fitting that last August, when Jimmy Doohan received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, the keynoter at a conference associated with the event was none other than Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

"Not having a transporter was a significant disadvantage," Armstrong said. "The method we used to descend from orbit to the surface of an alien world, uhh, worked, but it would've been far more efficient and far less traumatic if we could just be beamed down. I'm hoping for my next command, to be given a Federation starship. When I get that command, I would like to have a crew like Captain James T. Kirk had: Spock, Chekov and Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Sulu, and the others we all remember."

But especially Scotty.

"Now, I have a confession to make," the one-giant-stepper continued. I am an engineer. And if I get that command, I want a Chief Engineering officer like Montgomery Scott. Because I know Scotty will get the job done, and do it right. Even if I often hear him say, 'But Caeptain, I dunna have enough time!' So from one old engineer to another, thanks Scotty."

The previous day, the X Prize Foundation conducted a panel on the privatization of space exploration. Leading the panel was X Prize founder Dr. Peter Diamandis and supporter Dr. Harry Kloor. Kloor is a scientist and also a writer who contributed to several episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. Another panelist was Dick Rutan, whose globe-circling experimental plane bore the name of a "Star Trek" craft named Voyager.

And as to Doohan/Scotty: you may not know this, but his airborne skills and feats of bravery were not limited to the screen. On D-Day, Canadian Air Force Lt. James Doohan successfully led his Canadian troops onto the beach and pushed inland to establish the best possible gun position. To secure this position, he shot two Nazi snipers.

And in an ironic twist of life that was to preview art, Lt. Doohan stayed in the Air Force and became a pilot.

Scotty was all about striving, thinking rather than reacting in a crisis, skill through preparation, but most of all - humanity.

Can you beam us up one last time?