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NASA honors Captain Kirk for space service

William Shatner has been all around the universe, but he came down to Earth long enough to receive a special honor from NASA.

William Shatner NASA medal
William Shatner receives his medal from NASA's Bob Jacobs. NASA

When he wasn't busy falling for space-babes and violating the Prime Directive, Captain Kirk was building a reputation as an inspiration for space-minded people everywhere. Actor William Shatner has taken this mission seriously over the decades since the original "Star Trek" first aired.

In honor of his support of NASA programs and science education, NASA honored Shatner with its Distinguished Public Service Medal, the space agency's highest award for non-government people. The medal reads, "For outstanding generosity and dedication to inspiring new generations of explorers around the world, and for unwavering support for NASA and its missions of discovery." Shatner is the first "Star Trek" cast member to receive the award.

Looking more actual cowboy than space-cowboy, Shatner accepted the honor during his annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show on April 26.

"William Shatner has been so generous with his time and energy in encouraging students to study science and math, and for inspiring generations of explorers, including many of the astronauts and engineers who are a part of NASA today, " said David Weaver, associate administrator for NASA's Office of Communications.

Shatner has a history of involvement with NASA projects, including narrating a documentary on space shuttles, recording a wake-up call for the astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 2011, and providing the voice-over for a dramatic video about the Curiosity Mars rover. Somehow, having Captain Kirk's voice attached to a NASA production just makes everything that much more exciting.

Congratulations, Captain, you earned it.