The term first contact describes the first official encounter between representatives of two races or governments. Occasionally, the official first contact takes place years or even decades after members of the species involved have first met.
Typically, first contact is only initiated by the Federation if a civilization is sufficiently advanced and has developed interstellar travel (via warp drive, for example). Contact with more primitive civilizations is prohibited by the Prime Directive.
It has been stated that the preferred method is to privately approach scientists and intellectual leaders to make the initial contact, on the assumption that they would more easily grasp the concept of alien life. (TNG: "First Contact")
Human-Vulcan first contact
The term First Contact, in Human context, is also used to specifically refer to the first official publicly and globally known contact between Humans and extraterrestrials. The First Contact took place on the evening of April 5, 2063, when a Vulcan survey ship, the T'Plana-Hath, having detected the warp signature of the Phoenix, touched down in Bozeman, central Montana, where they met with the Phoenix's designer and pilot, Zefram Cochrane. This event is generally referred to as the defining moment in Human history, eventually paving the way for a unified world government and, later, the United Federation of Planets. The event also became an annual holiday called First Contact Day. (Star Trek: First Contact; ENT: "Broken Bow", "Desert Crossing", "E²", "These Are the Voyages..."; TNG: "The Outcast", "Attached"; VOY: "Homestead")
An unofficial first contact between Humans and a Vulcan occurred during the Depression era in New York City. In 1930, Kirk and Spock, a Vulcan from the 23rd century, traveled through time and walked on the streets of New York being witnessed by many. When the two were caught stealing clothes by the police, Kirk attempted to explain to the officer that Spock was Chinese and his ears the result of a childhood accident. After they escaped from being taken into custody, Spock disguised his Vulcan appearance. (TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever")
Well documented at the Vulcan Science Directorate and Space Council, but not in common Human knowledge, is also the incident of a small Vulcan survey ship crash-landing in Carbon Creek, Pennsylvania, a mining town, in 1957. Sent to investigate the launch of Earth's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, the starship's impulse manifold began to malfunction during the third week of intelligence gathering, forcing the crew to attempt an emergency landing. The commander of the vessel perished in the crash, leaving command to T'Mir, T'Pol's second foremother. Unable to confirm the transmission of their distress call, having exhausted their emergency rations, the remainder of the Vulcan crew was ultimately compelled to enter Carbon Creek in disguise. Without currency, T'Mir and Mestral were able to obtain sustenance in the form of pretzels and water at the local bar. Mestral, however, confident in his knowledge of simple geometry, was able to obtain currency, and, consequently, "cryogenic" (i.e. frozen) food, through a game of pool. As the weeks wore on, the crew took up various employments and increased their interactions with the Humans. T'Mir, Mestral, and Stron, nevertheless, managed to keep their existence as aliens a secret. (ENT: "Carbon Creek")
Roswell UFO incident
The Roswell Incident was the actual first contact between Humans and extraterrestrials, that was not considered by Humans to be a supernatural event. The incident was however covered up by the United States Air Force and never made public knowledge. In 1947, the Ferengi shuttle Quark's Treasure crash-landed near the town of Roswell, New Mexico. The event was initially reported in the newspapers, but was quickly retracted by the military, claimed to be a misidentification of weather balloon debris. The three aliens, thought to be Martians at the time, were found unconscious on board the damaged ship and taken into custody by the United States Army Air Corps. President Harry Truman wanted the aliens to be examined and interrogated, tortured if necessary. The shuttle was stored in Hangar 18 of the Air Force Base and was examined by the military. They however couldn't figure out how it worked.
Quark introduced himself as a Ferengi, the Chief Financial Officer of the Ferengi Alliance, and wanted to sell advanced technology to the United States in exchange for gold. He claimed the Ferengi had conducted surveillance of Earth for years and knew everything there was to know about Humans. He threatened to sell the technology to the Soviet Union if the Americans wouldn't buy it from him. Rom attempted to tell the interrogators the truth, that they were accidental time travelers from the future. Nog in turn attempted to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear, that they were scouts of a massive alien invasion force that was orbiting the Earth and about to invade the planet.
The three Ferengi managed to escape on their ship with the help from Faith Garland and Jeff Carlson. Odo was seen shape-shifting by the two 20th century humans. The Americans did not learn where the aliens really came from or what their true mission was or where they went after they escaped. The incident however proved the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life to the United States government, and gave them information on alien physiology from the thorough medical examinations of the three Ferengi. (DS9: "Little Green Men")
Other notable first contacts
During the history of Earth, the planet was in fact contacted several times by aliens. These contacts before the 21st century were not well known, went unnoticed, faded away into mythology or were interpreted as supernatural encounters. Even so, many of them had a lasting impact on the evolution of Human culture through the ages.
On several occasions extraterrestrial visitors on Earth who interacted with Humans appeared to be or were disguised as Humans themselves and were not identified as aliens. These included the Sahndaran refugees who lived among the Greeks during the 1st millennium BC, the El-Aurian Guinan, the half-Betazoid Deanna Troi and a group of Devidian shapeshifters who visited San Francisco in the 1890s, the Bajoran Kira Nerys in San Francisco in 1930 and the Trill Jadzia Dax in San Francisco in 2024. In some cases when aliens were identified by Humans, the encounters didn't become public knowledge, such as when the half-Klingon B'Elanna Torres was discovered by Humans in Arizona in 1996 and the group of Xindi-Reptilians who were seen in Detroit in 2004. (TOS: "Plato's Stepchildren"; TNG: "Time's Arrow", "Time's Arrow, Part II"; DS9: "Past Tense, Part II"; VOY: "Future's End, Part II"; ENT: "Carpenter Street")
Human-Sky Spirit first contact
The earliest known notable Human - extraterrestrial first contact was with the Sky Spirits, a race of humanoid explorers, with warp-capable starships, from the Delta Quadrant of the Milky Way Galaxy. They first visited Earth in the Paleolithic age around 42,600 BC and saw that most Humans were barbaric in nature. They did however find a nomadic tribe of hunters who had no culture or language, but who had respect for all life and land. The Sky Spirits initiated first contact and gave the nomads a genetic bond that made them a race of Human-Sky People hybrids called the Inheritors. The genetic bond gave them the appearance of the Sky Spirit race and the Sky Spirit mentality for curiosity and adventure that eventually became part of all Human culture. The Inheritors were also the first people to migrate to the American continent. When the Europeans invaded the lands around the 16th century most of the Inheritors were killed by war and disease. Only a few Inheritors, who had the Sky Spirit physical appearance, survived in hiding in the Central American rain forest. (VOY: "Tattoo")
Human-Kukulkan first contact
Kukulkan, an immensely old alien being and the last of its race, saw humanoids in the galaxy as violent beings, always eventually destroying themselves. Kukulkan visited Earth as an experiment and had contact with all the civilizations on the planet. With a plan of turning Humans to a path of peace, it gave them advanced knowledge, such as the Mayan calendar, hieroglyphic writing, and architectural plans to a city with designs of obelisks, pyramids, temples and gateways. The ancient Egyptians, Chinese and the Native Americans attempted to build the city but only finished parts of it. Kukulkans visit was remembered in Comanche, Mayan and Aztec legend. In Toltec legend he was called Quetzalcoatl. Kukulkan was the basis of the Chinese dragon, and all the other similar winged serpent gods in the various cultures on Earth. (TAS: "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth")
Human-Greek gods first contact
In the early 3rd millennium BC, a group of powerful immortal beings from Pollux IV landed on Earth in the Mediterranean region. These aliens considered themselves to be gods and presented themselves as such to the primitive Humans. They had the power to control and transform the environment, to change physical shape, the power of teleportation, as well as control over the life and death of other beings. The worship of these aliens was the beginning of the Ancient Greek civilization and their deeds on Earth became the Greek classic myths. Eventually Humans became less interested in the worship of these gods. Instead of punishing Humans and demanding worship, the aliens left Earth around 2700 BC for their home planet. Many of the Greek gods eventually decided to end their own existence.
In 2267, James T. Kirk and his crew made contact with Apollo, the last of the Greek gods, who had waited for his worshipers to develop space travel and seek him out. The encounter resulted in the death of Apollo and the extinction of his species. (TOS: "Who Mourns for Adonais?")
Human-Megan first contact
During the 13th century, a group of Megans settled on Earth. They were an ageless species from a parallel universe where magic was part of the natural laws. They assisted Humans as sorcerer-contractors using their natural ability to change reality with the power of thought. The Megans were responsible for the medieval legends of magic and love potions, witches, wizards, evil sorcerers, demons and warlocks.
By the 17th century, it had become clear to the Megans, that Humans were only manipulating them to gain power for themselves and to serve their own greeds and lusts. When Megans refused to serve, Humans turned against them and taught others to fear and hate them. Lucien, a Megan, known on Earth by the name Lucifer, became synonymous with the mythological Devil of Christianity. Asmodeus, became known as a demon. The Megans who had survived the centuries of persecution eventually settled in Salem, Massachusetts, to live out their lives there in the guise of normal Humans. After several Megans made the mistake of using their powers again, they were burned as witches during the Salem witch trials. The last surviving Megans left Earth and returned to their universe, where they remained bitter and fearful of Humans.
In 2269, the USS Enterprise made contact with the Megans and Captain Kirk managed to prove them that Humans had changed. Asmodeus welcomed Humans to visit Megas-Tu in the future. (TAS: "The Magicks of Megas-Tu")
Human-Non-corporeal first contact
In the late 17th century, a symbiotic non-corporeal anaphasic lifeform took the appearance of a Human male, claiming to be the ghost of a man called Ronin, who was born in 1647 in Glasgow, Scotland. It did this to fool Jessel Howard into a symbiotic relationship. Jessel was one of Beverly Crusher's distant ancestors and one of the rare Humans who had biochemistry compatible with the lifeforms energy matrix. The symbiotic relationship was passed down to each of her daughters and was the source of many ghost stories surrounding the family. (TNG: "Sub Rosa")
In 1888, Redjac a non-corporeal parasitic lifeform began to gain fame on Earth when he used host-Humans to become a serial killer of women in London, England. The entity fed on the emotions produced by the fear and terror in its vitcims. Newspapers dubbed him "Jack the Ripper". (TOS: "Wolf in the Fold")
Human-Klingon first contact
Unofficially, the first known contact between a Human and a Klingon took place, when Samuel Clemens traveled forward in time from the year 1893. He was beamed aboard the USS Enterprise-D and met Lieutenant Worf in the year 2369. Clemens returned to his own time and did not reveal his knowledge of the existence of extraterrestrials or Klingons to the public. (TNG: "Time's Arrow, Part II")
In April of 2151, a small Klingon scoutship piloted by the courier Klaang was returning to Qo'noS with evidence that Suliban Cabal was responsible for recent internal strife within the Klingon Empire. Klaang was pursued by members of the cabal and crash-landed on Earth in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Though Klaang managed to dispatch his pursuers, he was shot by a Human farmer named Moore. Against the urgings of the Vulcans, Starfleet launched its first warp 5 vessel Enterprise NX-01 to return the wounded Klaang to Qo'noS. (ENT: "Broken Bow") This first contact with the Empire was considered a disastrous event that led to decades of war. Based on this bad experience, it was decided to conduct surveillance on new races before making contact. (TNG: "First Contact")
Human-Andorian first contact
The first known contact between Humans and Andorians occurred accidentally in June of 2151 at the Vulcan monastery of P'Jem. The Andorian Empire believed that the Vulcan High Command had constructed a listening post at the monastery which was being used to spy on the Andorians, in violation of a treaty signed between the two, and had repeatedly sent officers of the Andorian Imperial Guard to search for it.
One such search coincided with a visit by a landing party from the Enterprise NX-01 led by Captain Jonathan Archer. The Andorians, led by Commander Shran, mistakenly believed Enterprise to be a supply vessel for the listening post and took the landing party prisoner. Enterprise personnel would later attempt a rescue of the landing party. Though there were no fatalities during the resulting firefight, the Humans and Andorians stumbled upon the listening post deep below the monastery. Captain Archer's decision to allow the Andorians to leave with proof of the listening post would temporarily strain Earth-Vulcan relations, particularly after the Andorians later destroyed the monastery and listening post. It would, however, mark the beginning of a long-standing alliance between Earth and Andoria and a personal friendship between Archer and Commander Shran. (ENT: "The Andorian Incident", "Shadows of P'Jem")
Human-Akaali first contact
First contact with the Akaali was made by Enterprise NX-01 in 2151. It was significant in that it was the first Human-initiated first contact. Despite the Vulcan advice not to contact the primitive Akaali homeworld, Captain Archer took a landing party to the surface. In doing so, the Enterprise uncovered a covert mining operation by the Malurians. (ENT: "Civilization")
Federation-Gorn first contact
First contact with the Gorn occured in 2267, when they attacked the Federation colony on Cestus III. The Gorn saw the strike as a preemptive move, since they regarded the Cestus system as part of their territory. (TOS: "Arena")
James T. Kirk was the first Federation officer to physically confront a Gorn following his pursuit of their vessel in response to the attack on Cestus III. This pursuit alerted the attention of the Metrons, a highly advanced race who opposed conflict within their territory. They transported Kirk and the Gorn captain to a prepared planet and forced them to battle there. This deed was meant as a punishment, but ultimately, Kirk spared the Gorn captain; the mercy displayed by Kirk's refusal caused the observing Metron to think of the conflict as a test, which Humans had passed. (TOS: "Arena")
Federation-Ferengi Alliance first contact
First contact with the Ferengi took place in multiple phases. The very first contact between Humans and Ferengi actually occurred in 1947 in the Roswell Incident. Although the aliens were identified as Ferengi and their physiology was examined, knowledge of the incident was suppressed and never became public knowledge. (DS9: "Little Green Men")
In 2355, the USS Stargazer encountered a vessel of unknown origin in the Maxia Zeta system, a system the Ferengi had claimed as part of their territory. The Federation was unaware of the claim at the time. Combat between the two vessels ensued, and it was here that Captain Jean-Luc Picard employed the Picard Maneuver to confuse and destroy the Ferengi ship. The Stargazer also took heavy damage and had to be abandoned by its crew following the incident, and the enemy ship was not officially identified as a Ferengi vessel until 2364. (TNG: "The Battle")
Determinate first contact between the Ferengi Alliance and the United Federation of Planets occurred in 2364 in the Delphi Ardu system, where a Ferengi starship and the USS Enterprise-D were trapped in orbit by a derelict outpost of the ancient Tkon Empire. Prior to this, only conflicting hearsay and third hand reports were known by Federation scholars regarding the Ferengi. It was known for sure only that the Ferengi were ruthless traders. (TNG: "The Last Outpost")
Contact between the Ferengi Alliance and the Federation steadily increased to a level of significance, and only minor conflicts ensued from then on. (Star Trek: The Next Generation, etc.)
Federation-Borg first contact
The first contact between Humans and the Borg occurred in 2063 during the Borg temporal incursion to prevent the Human-Vulcan first contact. Lily Sloane was the only Human of that era to witness the Borg, though many saw the Borg sphere in orbit in the night sky over Bozeman, Montana attempting to bomb the Phoenix launch silo. Borg drones were found in the debris of the sphere in 2153. The Borg were destroyed by the crew of the Enterprise NX-01. They didn't state their species during the later encounter. (Star Trek: First Contact; ENT: "Regeneration")
Federation-Wadi first contact
A Vulcan ship traveling through the Gamma Quadrant encountered a Wadi starship, initiating first contact. An official meeting was developed in 2369 between the Wadi and the United Federation of Planets, with the meeting to occur on Deep Space 9. The Wadi starship with their representative Falow arrived at the station, marking the first Gamma Quadrant delegation to arrive in the Alpha Quadrant. Commander Benjamin Sisko led the contact, however, Falow and his crew were more interested in the gaming available in the Alpha Quadrant rather than an official meeting. (DS9: "Move Along Home")
Federation-Dominion first contact
The Ferengi were the first Alpha Quadrant species to learn of the existence of the Dominion, which was achieved through business dealings with a Gamma Quadrant race called the Dosi. The Federation then heard more about the Dominion when Skrreean refugees came through the Bajoran wormhole, having escaped when the Dominion had conquered the Skreeans' oppressors, the T-Rogorans. Following the Skreeans' exodus, Odo and Jadzia Dax later learned that the Dominion had conquered the Yaderans in 2340. First official contact between the Federation and the Dominion came in late 2370, when Benjamin Sisko and Quark were taken prisoner on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant by the Jem'Hadar. The USS Odyssey was later destroyed by the Dominion. (DS9: "Rules of Acquisition", "Sanctuary", "Shadowplay", "The Jem'Hadar")
Bajor-Cardassia first contact
Ancient Bajorans first established contact between Bajor and Cardassia through the use of a Bajoran lightship. Although traveling at sublight speeds, the ship was eventually propelled by a tachyon eddy to speeds equivalent to warp, enabling the ship to bypass the hazards of the Denorios belt. Cardassian archaeologists claim the vessel's remnants were discovered on Cardassia Prime in 2371, coinciding with the arrival of Benjamin and Jake Sisko on a replica lightship, though it is implied that Cardassia had been unofficially aware of them for some time by that point. Cardassians had previously dismissed Bajoran claims of first contact as a "fairy tale", disputing that Bajorans achieved interstellar flight first. (DS9: "Explorers")