It’s the ship that would boldly go on to make history—the Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model, used in the filming of the iconic television show, which premiered on NBC in September of 1966. It’s a ship that’s inspired big and small screen adaptations, countless fan tributes, and many selfies near its display at our Museum in Washington, DC.

Take a closer look at the makings of the starship Enterprise.

  • Before the advent of CGI, filming miniatures (like this Enterprise model) was standard practice on film and television sets. How did they shoot the Enterprise zooming through a star field in the original series’ opening credits? The model would stand still against a blue backdrop and the camera would go past it, creating the illusion that the Enterprise was moving.
  • If you’ve only seen the 1960s Enterprise studio model on TV, that means you’ve only ever seen it from one side.
    During production of the television show, only one side was completely finished and detailed—that was the side always shown on screen. The port side, or left side of the model, never faced the camera, so it was not as detailed. This is visible in the display at our Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall; you’ll see the left side is where the wires bring power to the ship’s internal lights and motors.
  • The lighting system on the original Enterprise used mirrors, motors, nails, and Christmas lights to illuminate the model. The original mechanism, including the nacelle dome lights, did not survive.

    The model’s internal lighting has now been replaced with modern LED lights. 


A close up of the Star Trek starship Enterprise. 

  • The paint on the front top of the saucer dates back to the 1960s. Conservators took microscopic samples from the model’s surface to analyze cross-sections of this paint under both UV and visible light.

    The paint colors used in the conservation treatment of the studio model were matched to the original colors. (There are actually five different shades of grey in the restored Enterprise model!)

See a new side to the National Air and Space Museum with images from our Air and Space Photo initiative. Explore the history of aviation and spaceflight from a new angle, and download high-resolution photographs of our collections.

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