The Smithsonian Works on Restoring ‘Star Trek’s’ Original Enterprise

By April 24, 2015

The original “Star Trek” television series stands as one of the icons of American television, and even nearly fifty years after the first episode aired on NBC in September of 1966, it helped to spawn one of the most popular franchises in sci-fi history. Because of the show’s revered status, it goes without saying that any original artifacts from that show should be preserved as best as possible, and that goes double for the entire franchise’s most iconic element: the ship.

The original model for the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 has had residence at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC since 1974, when Paramount Pictures donated it to the museum’s National Collection. Since then, the model spent a great deal of time on display in the museum’s gift shop, but it was removed from that location in September 2014 to undergo restoration work. After the restoration is completed, the ship will join Boeing’s “Milestones of Flight” hall, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2016.

Before restoration can begin in earnest, though, the museum wants to analyze every inch of the iconic model as much as possible to determine the scale of the work needing to be done, and to do that, they need to look inside the model. They don’t want to damage it, though, since the materials and overall frame of the piece have shrunk in the 51 years since its initial construction. So how will they do that?

Two technicians from the National Zoo in Washington position their portable radiography to x-ray parts of the Enterprise.

Two technicians from the National Zoo in Washington position their portable radiography to x-ray parts of the Enterprise.

In a new update released through the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s official website, they detail the painstaking process of lining up sensitive radiography equipment to x-ray parts of the model that they intend on restoring. The blog stated,

Consisting of three pieces, the apparatus has an x-ray emitter that exposes a special digital photographic plate, which in turn communicates with a computer enabled with its own independent WiFi. But what really made it special was that this technology has also been used to examine zoo animals, even panda sensation, Bao Bao. (Talk about breaking the Internet! Consider combining the web power of Bao Bao and Star Trek!)

Although the work is extremely sensitive, the care that the various technicians and workers are taking to preserve the integrity of the model appears to be world-class.  By going slowly and only examining certain parts at a time, they minimize the exposure of the model to any sort of disturbance of its original structure. As a massive Star Trek fan, I find it really gratifying to see the dear old ship treated with such care so that people can enjoy it for decades to come.

Be sure to check the Museum’s blog for any future updates on the Enterprise‘s restoration, and for more Star Trek news as it happens, keep your phasers locked on GeekNation!

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation,, The Huffington Post, and He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.