HughPickens.com writes: As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek, Manu Saudia, author of Trekonomics, has an interesting article on BoingBoing about how according to Gene Roddenberry himself, no author had more influence on The Original Star Trek than Robert Heinlein, and more specifically his juvenile novel Space Cadet. That book, published in 1948, is considered a classic. It is a bildungsroman, retelling the education of young Matt Dodson from Iowa, who joins the Space Patrol and becomes a man. (In a homage from Roddenberry, Star Trek's Captain James Tiberius Kirk is also from Iowa.) The Space Patrol is a prototype of Starfleet: it is a multiracial, multinational institution, entrusted with keeping the peace in the solar system. In Space Cadet, Heinlein portrayed a society where racism had been overcome. Not unlike Starfleet, the Space Patrol was supposed to be a force for good. According to Saudia, the hierarchical structure and naval ranks of the first Star Trek series (a reflection of Heinlein's Annapolis days) were geared to appeal to Heinlein's readers and demographics, all these starry-eyed kids who, like Roddenberry himself, had read Space Cadet and Have Spacesuit -- Will Travel. Nobody cared about your sex or the color of your skin as long as you were willing to sign up for the Space Patrol or Starship Troopers' Federal service. Where it gets a little weird is that Heinlein's Space Patrol controls nuclear warheads in orbit around Earth, and its mission is to nuke any country that has been tempted to go to war with its neighbors. This supranational body in charge of deterrence, enforcing peace and democracy on the home planet by the threat of annihilation, was an extrapolation of what could potentially be achieved if you combined the UN charter with mutually assured destruction. "The fat finger on the nuclear trigger makes it a very doubtful proposition," concludes Saudia. "The Space Patrol, autonomous and unaccountable, is the opposite of the kind democratic and open society championed by Star Trek."