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When we speak about alien encounters, we mostly have one of these two scenarios in mind: Either the aliens know nothing about us, or they know everything.

Let's explore a third option. The idea comes from the great sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest:

Imagine an alien race which knows about us only the things displayed in the Star Trek franchise. And let's be generous with this one: Once it had the name "Star Trek" in it, these aliens know it. But they do not know anything else about us than the Star Trek franchise.

One awful hand-wave here is answering the question "How come?" But for the time being, just accept it as a fact.

The alien race spends an awful lot of time and energy to be just as the characters in Star Trek. And after finally getting the dilithium to work, they approach us.

A perfect working copy of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D is in Earth standard orbit right now. Open a communication channel, Mr. Sulu, we want to apply to the Federation.

But we all know the problem. There is no Federation. There are no Klingons or Romulans. But we can somehow fake it, because we at least have Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

The question is: How long can we hide the fact that the Star Trek world is non-existent?

Because, let's face it. Most of you would gladly sacrifice your left hand just for a possibility to have a ride in the real thing. So we want to fake it and get the technology from them.

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    $\begingroup$ Too bad, aliens, looks like when you came out of warp you fell into a wormhole, and now you're in the past! But if we combine our efforts, and you share some of our future technology, I'm sure we can get you back home in one piece. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 28 '15 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry to say it, but I see the real handwave being that star-trek could exist. Any aliens would know how astronomically miniscule the odds of a humanoid alien existing is, much less dozen of them within an astrological stones-throw of each other. There is so much made up science in it that it's impossible to fake that anything within Star Trek could have occurred in the real world to any species advanced enough to have mastered space travel. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Aug 28 '15 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ How much do we get to know about the aliens? It's really hard to trick someone if you know nothing about what they will look for to detect a trick. The less we know, the more perfectly the guise must be upheld. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Aug 28 '15 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh post it as an answer, it's a good one. $\endgroup$ – Emilio M Bumachar Aug 29 '15 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Sulu wasn't on the Enterprise-D. He'd be 120 years old by the time it was built. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Mar 25 '16 at 2:54
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It's important to note that the events depicted in the Star Trek franchise haven't happened yet in-universe.

We (or Sir Patrick) should say that we received the same "historical footage" as a warning/message of hope from the future. Because of them, we managed to avoid the Eugenics Wars, but an unforeseen consequence was that we are now behind schedule technologically. We then beseech them for their help in "repairing the timeline".

So to answer the question: indefinitely.

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The aliens are obviously technically advanced to a point where we cannot hide anything substantial to them. Already when approaching, they will have noticed the absence of warp signatures in space, let alone star sips. They will have monitored our communications during approach, and thus learned about our actual state of technology (we're still communicating with electromagnetic waves, instead of the much better subspace communications, for example). They will have superior sensors which which they can simply scan the earth and find out practically everything important about us.

Basically watch any Star Trek episode where they approach an unknown inhabited planet, and see what they learn about it from space. The aliens will learn exactly the same about us, by the premise.

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Not at all?

The Utopia Planitia shipyards are unfortunately missing. So is Starbase 1/Spacedock. We can't even beam up to talk with them.

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