Leonard Nimoy infused such gravitas into the unlikely character of Spock, that the half-Vulcan science officer’s logic, integrated with human compassion and mystic spirituality, became "Star Trek’s" ethical star chart – the homing beacon upon which the franchise has navigated for almost 50 years.  

Like a science officer, Leonard asked questions:  How would Vulcans greet one another? Not with a handshake, but with the splayed-fingers live long and prosper.  How would the oh-so-cerebral Vulcans handle themselves in a fight?  Not with a roundhouse right, but with the almost effortless neck pinch. What would alien spirituality look like? Meditative and introspective, of course.

An actor, director and artist who embraced intimate, emotional, relationship-based story telling, Leonard would have seemed an unlikely choice to become the embodiment of science Geekiness for generations of Sci-Fi fans.

Like a science officer, Leonard asked questions:  How would Vulcans greet one another? Not with a handshake, but with the splayed-fingers live long and prosper.  How would the oh-so-cerebral Vulcans handle themselves in a fight?  Not with a roundhouse right, but with the almost effortless neck pinch. What would alien spirituality look like? Meditative and introspective, of course.

But, like a science officer, Leonard asked questions:  How would Vulcans greet one another? Not with a handshake, but with the splayed-fingers live long and prosper.  How would the oh-so-cerebral Vulcans handle themselves in a fight?  Not with a roundhouse right, but with the almost effortless neck pinch. What would alien spirituality look like? Meditative and introspective, of course.

A great storyteller, with a wry sense of humor, Leonard gently inserted self-deprecating wit into a larger than life role – one he refused to allow to define him, and yet, ultimately, embraced.  

He was kind toward people when he didn’t have to be, understood his special relationship with his fans, and came to appreciate the connection between science fiction and real space exploration: it wasn’t for nothing that NASA named its first space shuttle Enterprise, and Leonard and the rest of the "Trek" cast turned out for her christening.

It was late in his career when I met Leonard -- 2010 at the Space Foundation’s annual Space Symposium.  The altitude of Colorado Springs (6,000+ feet) was already affecting his weakened lungs, his frailty already apparent. 

But a trooper he was, and for an hour at the Space Technology Hall of Fame dinner, he held 1,200 rocket scientists, astronauts and engineers in thrall as he described his journey Where No Man Had Gone Before.

To be present was to see a room full of the most brilliant people in the world, reduced to child-like glee by the personal connection that Leonard made with all of them.

Thanks, Leonard Nimoy, for helping to shape an optimistic view of our future, and reminding us that there are always possibilities. 

Elliot Holokauahi Pulham is the Space Foundation's Chief Executive Officer.