It's been a long trek: NASA wishes Shatner happy 80th

Image: Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner
Actors Leonard Nimoy, left, and William Shatner promote the "Star Trek" 40th Anniversary on the TV Land network at the Four Seasons hotel Aug. 9, 2006 in Los Angeles.  Shatner turned 80 on Tuesday; Nimoy will turn 80 on March 26. Frazer Harrison / Getty Images
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NASA joined the throngs of fans wishing "Star Trek" actor William Shatner a happy 80th birthday Tuesday in the form of an online note to TV's original Capt. James T. Kirk.

"We want to wish happy birthday to @WilliamShatner — someone who continues to boldly go!" NASA told Shatner via Twitter, where the space agency posts updates as @NASA. 

Shatner starred as the iconic captain of the starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" science fiction series that ran from 1966 to 1969. He reprised the role in seven of the franchise's 11 feature films.

To mark Shatner's birthday, the actor's website teamed up with and ThinkGeek for an online video contest for "International Talk Like William Shatner Day." The winner for best video will receive a gold command-color Star Trek robe.

"I wonder if I enter if I would win?" Shatner mused on his Twitter page.

NASA and "Star Trek" have a long history together.

The space agency's first space shuttle – which performed landing tests but never flew in space – was named Enterprise in honor of the U.S.S. Enterprise starship at the heart of the science fiction franchise. (V.S.S. Enterprise is also the name of the first private spaceship built by Virgin Galactic to fly space tourists on suborbital joyrides.)

The theme song from "Star Trek" was one of two winning tunes played as a wake-up call for astronauts this month during the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery. Shatner recorded a special version of the show's original opening for the event.  

Astronauts have even dressed up in Star Trek uniforms or re-created posters from the franchise's films as part of their outreach program.

Several actors from the original Star Trek series have recorded public service announcements for NASA, and real-life NASA astronauts have appeared on some of the franchise's subsequent incarnations such as "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Enterprise."

Shatner currently stars in the CBS sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says."

You can follow managing editor Tariq Malik on Twitter. Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter and on .