Its departure from the viewing public at the Smithsonian’s National Air And Space Museum may not have been a five-year mission. But it was long enough that its absence was felt by visitors to the Washington, D.C. landmark.
But no more. Earlier this week, the 11-foot model of the USS Enterprise used in the filming of the original “Star Trek” televisions series was placed back on display. It has become a centerpiece of the recently renovated Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, which officially reopened July 1 to celebrate the exhibition hall’s 40th anniversary.
The location represents a significant upgrade for the Enterprise, which spent many years housed in the museum’s lower-level gift shop. The model will now be prominently featured in the museum’s central hall along with some of the most significant airplanes, rockets and spacecraft in U.S. history.
Paramount Pictures originally donated the Enterprise model to the museum in 1974, where it was on display until it was removed in September 2014 to undergo extensive restoration and preservation efforts. The primary objective of the project was to stabilize the 50-year-old model and return it to its original condition. Ironically, this involved undoing some of the controversial changes made during the model’s previous restoration in 1991.
While some people may find the inclusion of a fictional starship in the Milestones exhibit to be unusual, museum curator Margaret Weitekamp says she believes the Enterprise model perfectly symbolizes the themes of imagination and inspiration found in aviation and spaceflight stories.
The Air and Space Museum welcomes about 6.7 million visitors each year, making it the fifth-most visited museum in the world, according to reports. It was originally created through an act of Congress in 1946 with a law that was signed by President Harry Truman.
It moved into its current exhibition hall on July 1, 1976.
The Enterprise model was designed by Matt Jefferies, whose only instructions from “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry was that the ship should not have some of the stereotypical spaceship elements found in science-fiction of the time, like rockets and fire-streams. The ship model itself was finished in December 1964, according to Star Trek Communicator, at a cost of $600 — which today would be equivalent to just under $4,600.