Where were you on September 17, 1976? That's the date that NASA rolled out the Space Shuttle Enterprise (OV-101), at the Rockwell plant in Palmdale, California, with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and most of The Original Series cast -- including Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan and Walter Koenig -- joining the festivities at the dedication ceremony. The Enterprise, of course, was a shuttle prototype named after Trek's U.S.S. Enterprise, and it earned its name following a write-in campaign, early proof that Star Trek -- and Star Trek's science -- was not only on its way back into the public conversation, but that it had -- as it still does today -- greatly influenced scientists and astronauts.
The Enterprise shuttle never actually flew in space on its own, but NASA used it perform atmospheric test flights -- which it did upon being launched from a modified 747 airplane. NASA retired the Enterprise in the early 1980s and eventually ended up at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Later, in 2012, the Enterprise made one last trip, a fly-by (on the back of a plane, of course) over New York City, on its way to becoming a permanent fixture at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. And on July 12, 2012, the Intrepid played host to a ribbon-cutting ceremony and public opening of the Space Shuttle Pavilion. Numerous dignitaries attended, including NASA astronauts Mario Runco Jr., Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Kevin R. Gregel, Ellen S. Baker, Charles J. Camarda, Michael J. Massimino, Karol J. Bobko and Lee M.E. Morin; NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr.; local politicians, event sponsors; and a contingent of surviving crewmen who served aboard the Intrepid during its years as an aircraft carrier.
That same day, StarTrek.com talked for a few moments with Leonard Nimoy, who been on hand in April, 2012, when the Enterprise arrived in New York, before it made its final trek to the Intrepid. “It was an emotional and proud experience for me to be associated with this project,” Nimoy said. “The shuttle was a leap forward in moving people and equipment into space. I remember the day it was rolled out of its hangar in California and the Air Force band played the theme from Star Trek. It was thrilling. I’m so happy that it's found a home.”
Fans attending current interactive exhibition Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience at the Intrepid should also check out the Enteprise. For more information on The Starfleet Academy Experience, including VIP ticket packages and other programming at the Museum please visit www.intrepidmuseum.org/Startrek.