|William Shatner is presented with the medal by Bob Jacobs, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator, Communications. NASA photo|
Apart from his Star Trek duties, Shatner has been a vocal advocate of science education and space exploration.
"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, " David Weaver, NASA's associate administrator for the Office of Communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.
"He's most deserving of this prestigious award," Weaver added.
Shatner accepted the honor last Saturday evening, April 26, at his Hollywood Charity Horse Show in L,A., an annual event in which he raises money for children's causes, NASA officials said.
According to the medal's citation, Shatner was honored 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 has been an informal spokesman for NASA, especially in recent years. In 2011, Shatner beamed a wakeup call that recreated his "Star Trek" introduction to NASA astronauts working on the shuttle mission, STS-133, the final flight of the shuttle Discovery. The next year, he recorded a message for the real-life spacemen living aboard the International Space Station. And to help drum up excitement for NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, Shatner narrated a video about the robot that was released just a week before it landed on the Red Planet in 2012.
Shatner has also supported his home country's smaller space agency; last year, he traded tweets with astronaut Chris Hadfield, Canada's first space station commander.