After a conservation effort lasting almost two years, the model of the starship Enterprise that appeared in the original “Star Trek” television series is headed back for display at the National Air and Space Museum. Conservators subjected it to a slew of cutting-edge analyses—infrared and ultraviolet photography, microspectroscopy and even X-ray fluorescence spectrometry with a device that was designed to resemble a “Star Trek” phaser (though it functions more like a tricorder). The goal has been to restore the model as much as possible to its condition in August 1967, the last time it was modified for broadcast.
A previous museum treatment had led to some fanboy grumbling about the paint job (“Gives the model the appearance of an over-the hill movie star wearing cake makeup,” in one judgment), but Malcolm Collum, the museum’s chief conservator, says a great deal of “paint layer archaeology” has subsequently gone into getting it right. After it’s reassembled, the Enterprise will be beamed to a custom-made, climate-controlled case in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall in time for the museum’s 40th anniversary, on July 1 (and the “Star Trek” series’ 50th, on September 8). And which milestone will this non-flying craft celebrate? “The museum has long been interested in how spaceflight has been imagined,” says Margaret Weitekamp, the museum’s curator of space memorabilia. “And this is the perfect object to represent that.”