'Star Trek' USS Enterprise model to live long and prosper at the Smithsonian

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Ask a Trekkie "What happened to the Enterprise?" and they're likely to tell you it was destroyed by Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

From a Star Trek canon perspective, they'd be right. From a real-world perspective, though, they'd probably be missing the point.Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fcard%2fimage%2f130027%2f235a2042c8fe436ba072255a7ec9ba84

There is a model of the USS Enterprise from the original 1966-69 television series that survives to this day. It has just undergone a major restoration and rebuild, thanks to The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

The 11-foot model appeared during the second season of the original Star Trek series, in the memorable The Trouble with Tribbles episode. It joined the museum's collection in 1974.

Since then, the model has undergone relatively minor renovations. However, in 2011, the museum decided to embark on a five-year mission to fully restore the model ship in time for the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series premiere.

Star Trek Enterprise

Engen Conservation Chair Malcolm Collum and Will Lee, a museum specialist, discuss the markings on the bottom of the saucer section before the model is reassembled.

Image: Dane A. Penland, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

In order to restore the Enterprise to her former glory, the Smithsonian needed help. So it put out a call for any and all reference material that might help the museum match its restoration work to the model's original appearance back in 1967. It also assembled a dream team of advisers, including filmmakers and designers who worked on Star Trek films and spin-off series.

The model itself held many secrets to its original design. The team used x-ray radiography and careful sanding to reveal them.

By April 2016, the team compiled enough information to begin the restoration process in earnest. According to a Smithsonian blog post on the project, the model was cleaned, reinforced and repaired before painting and assembly began.

Star Trek Enterprise

Bill George (foreground) and John Goodson, both of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), mark the position of windows on the secondary hull before painting.

Image: Dane A. Penland, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

In order to protect the original from possible mistakes, the Smithsonian created replicas of parts of the model that they could use to test paint colors and painting processes before applying them to the original.

With the restoration process complete, the USS Enterprise studio production model is finally back on display at the Smithsonian's Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.

Starting July 1, visitors can walk completely around the model to view the camera ready-side (with its new LED lighting system) and the other side (with its exposed wires and motors). The protective glass case housing the model will also feature a touch screen offering visitors more information about the model and the restoration project.

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