Archive for the 'space' Category

Rick Sternbach Senior Illustrator for Star Trek TNG, DS9 and Voyager Speaks to!

March 3, 2007

Rick SternbachI had the chance to catch up with another Star Trek / Paramount Pictures alumni, Rick Sternbach. I have admired Rick’s work for years as I have Dan Curry, who I interviewed a few months back. Rick Sternbach is the guy who designed the Klingon Vor’Cha class Attack Cruiser, the Delta Flyer, the Starfleet Phaser and Tricorder, the Dauntless from Voyager’s “Hope and Fear” and about a million other things we have come to know as normal in the Star Trek universe.

Rick it is truly a pleasure to have you for an interview, I had admired your work for as long as I can remember!

What exactly did you do as the Senior Illustrator and Technical Script Consultant for Star Trek TNG, DS9, Voyager?

The illustrator part was pretty straight forward. The Production designer would have specific requirements for the show. Since it’s science fiction, everything has to be designed. It wasn’t at all like doing a western or a police show…where you could rent something. There was something new every week. The script would say “a fabulous alien gadget” and you can’t just go and rent something. For the most part we had to invent everything, it started from the script. We would talk about it, modify for the budget and present the drawings, get estimates. Every 10th working day we had a new episode. We would establish all the hand props we would see form week to week, tricorders, phasers, hyposprays…etc.

You have been designing things for many years. It seems you favour objects that fly in space. Why is that?

I grew up in a time before there was anything in Earth orbit. As a kid growing up when the first satellites were being put up and rocket powered aircraft were breaking records left and right. It caught a lot of imaginations and mine was one of them. I knew a lot of people with the same interests, we would gravitate together and fly rockets and design rockets for science fictional things. As a career path it certainly has been different from my pals. I haven’t quite got anything in to space for real yet…

How much did you work on Star Trek Generations, First Contact and Insurrection?

I did little bits. I blueprinted the enterprise-e based on sketches provided by John Eaves. I simply made it easier for ILM to build the ten foot model. I did very little for Insurrection. I did little bits on the various on the feature.

Are you working on the next Star Trek feature film, Star Trek XI?

I wish! I have sent my resume in, with a few visual samples but so far it has been a one way conversation. I would welcome a call from them.

Cardassian ShipAre you a fan of the show(s) yourself? Do you watch it, see a Cardassian ship and say, I did that?

I’ve always considered myself a follower of the franchise, but not a complete fan. I like a lot of what the franchise has to offer in terms of design. I appreciate what the franchise has done over the last 40 or so years just in terms of how it has got into our social consciousness. I tune into the re-runs every so often, I have not seen every episode of Enterprise as it didn’t hold my interest as much as the other series did. I don’t need to say “I did that” because I know I did that!

A question I asked my last interviewee, If I wanted to vaporize my neighbor’s dog, what setting would I set this Phaser to?

Probably jam it all the way up to setting 8..I think that would do. Anything higher is overkill!

What was your favourite design for Star Trek?

These days I think it is a toss up between the Voyager and the Klingon Vor’cha Class Attack Cruiser. The Prometheus was a close third. With the Prometheus the important thing was to get these designs to evolve. It was a little further along than I would have wanted. I’m not sure how much more advanced that ship could have been.

Is drawing about the hand or the brain?

The two are tied together. Whatever tools are being used, whether it be pencil or the computer mouse. There has to be ways to get the ideas down on paper, into the computer, printed out..somehow conveyed. It of course starts with an idea in my head. I get a lot of pleasure out of sitting here with a very wet felt pen and drawing shapes.

Delta FlyerAre you recognized in public or can you lead an anonymous existence?

If I go to a con..people might know me from online pictures. No one knows me out and about! I have gone to space symposiums and given talks and in those situations, they all know me. At the grocery store or gas station I am just some Joe from the neighborhood!

How long does it take you to design a Starship or a Phaser?

It depends. For episodic stuff it might take as little as ten minutes. Show a few drawings at a production meeting and they would say, Love it! A ship like Voyager, the producers wanted to make sure it took 5 months! Not constant work mind you, but it takes a lot of time to get right!

Anything exciting on the horizon?

At the moment I am president of Space Model Systems Incorporated (SMS Inc) – We produce products for the space education and hobby market. We produce a lot of aftermarket decals for historical space models. Terrain models and the moons of Jupiter. Places that space probes have seen. There are some days where I will just sit and doodle.

Thank you so much for your time Rick, you are welcome to come back at any time!

It’s been great!

If you have any questions for Rick Sternbach please send them to – Please check out Rick Sternbach’s official website at


An Event of the Highest International Urgency

January 19, 2007

The recent destruction of a Chinese weather satellite should be a cause of serious concern to those of us in the West. It has the potential to destabilise the balance of power that exists between the East and the West. Hours following the event, America’s media had already decided that it was China that had destroyed its own satellite. The BBC continues to maintain and stress that it is unconfirmed that China is responsible as they have made no comment. CNN has reported that the missile appears to have been “launched from or near the Xichang Space Center.”

Not only did this action cause the governments of the US, UK and other NATO members to launch full scale diplomatic protests, CNN reported that “this is viewed as an action taken by China to directly affect the United States”. President Kennedy said something very similar to the citizens in a broadcasted address to the American people during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962, as follows:

“…It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” – President John F. Kennedy

The political climate that is developing between the governments of the United States and China at the moment has similarities to the one that existed during the cold war of the 1960s. The unexpected development of surface to space weapons by the Chinese government that could destroy the US and other countries’ surveillance and GPS satellites is an obvious escalation in what has so far been a very quiet cold war between the United States and China. The role of Russia, then the USSR, in the sixties has been assumed by China. A significant mitigating factor that was not present in the 60s is the strong economic relationship now tying western countries to China.

We all remember the Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars project championed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s which called for weapons to be placed in orbit. These weapons would have been capable of destroying nuclear missiles launched from Russia directed at the United States. It was said at the time that once this technology was developed it should be shared with the USSR. In a 1985 issue of Peace Magazine, Andrew Pakula proposed that “Possibly the Soviets, faced with the reality or the perception of being at a disadvantage, of losing the deterrent power of their arsenals, might feel compelled to take the dangerous course of destroying the ‘Star Wars’ equipment.

Continuing to compare the cold war of the sixties with that of today, has China taken on the role of the former Soviet Union? It appears that China has destroyed its own satellite. This action was not an experiment “just to see if they could do it” but an announcement to the rest of the world that they have the power to disable some of the most important tools in modern warfare, specifically our strategic orbiting satellite systems. Apparently, the West has been caught off guard by this event.

The question has to be posed: If China did not launch this missile then who did and if it was some other country why have seen no reaction from China?

In the film, “The Sum of All Fears”, a secret organization detonates a nuclear device in the American city of Baltimore. The United States, believes that the Russian government is responsible for the attack. After intense negotiations fail, the United States and Russia attack each other but refrain from using nuclear weapons. Subsequently, we learn that the secret organization wanted to get the US and Russia to fight each other rather than for it to engage them individually.

How close to reality could this film be? Could it be possible that someone might really try to instigate a conflict between such powerful nations as the US and China. There is, of course, no evidence to suggest any validity to these speculations. There is, however, cause for concern that the United States and its allies measure their response accurately and appropriately. The last thing that we need is another war or skirmish especially with a military might of the size and power of that of China.

Those involved need to take a deep breath and figure out who, if not China, might have fired that missile.  In the words of Dean Acheson, a close advisor to President Kennedy, “Let us hope that cooler heads prevail before we reach the next step…  In the future, will our children be able to look back on the decisions of our leaders today and believe that they showed wisdom, prudence and discretion?