Where Is The Original Starship Enterprise Model Today?

Back in September 1966, NBC launched a new science fiction series that became one of the most groundbreaking and influential television shows of all time. Although it only ran for three seasons, the original "Star Trek" ended up earning a vast following of both dedicated civilian fans and space exploration professionals. The series also spawned multiple spin-offs and films, as well as conventions, books, comics, video games, and more.

The most recognizable image from "Star Trek" is that of the original USS Enterprise, the Constitution-class Federation starship that boldly took Captain Kirk, Spock, and the crew where no one had gone before. The 947-foot-long 23rd-century vessel was not only the most iconic symbol of "Star Trek" itself (per Memory Alpha), but arguably the most well-known space vessel in all of science fiction.

While the Enterprise has been brought to the screen in numerous ways over the years — ranging from physical models to CG recreations — the first "Star Trek" series used a fully detailed, painted, internally lit 11-foot model made primarily of plywood, plastic, Plexiglas and other materials. This model was used for the bulk of the visual effects shots showing the Enterprise in orbit, cruising through space, or hurtling toward the camera at warp speed.

Although "Star Trek" was canceled in 1969 — and future shows and movies would use different designs of the starship — the voyage of the original Enterprise model did not end there.

The Enterprise was given a place of honor in our real history of space exploration

After "Star Trek" was canceled, the original Enterprise model was disassembled and packed in three crates on the Paramount Studios lot. In 1974, the model was donated to the Smithsonian Institution (via Smithsonian Magazine) for display in its National Air and Space Museum — the only fictional vessel to be exhibited in the museum.

After many years on display, the Enterprise was removed and given an extensive restoration effort in 2015 and 2016. The ship was placed back on display in 2016 in the museum's Milestones of Flight Hall (via The World). It was withdrawn from public view again in 2019, this time as the institution itself underwent renovations (per TrekMovie). The ship went back on display in October 2022, when the facility reopened to the public.

Adam Savage visited the Smithsonian in 2022 for his "Adam Savage Tested" YouTube channel to get a private, in-depth look at the Enterprise with the help of Margaret A. Weitekamp, the chair of the Smithsonian's Space History Department. "Pretty much every ship designed after [the Enterprise] had to rise to that level," Weitekamp said, referring to the ship's pioneering qualities.

With the model itself restored, it's almost certain that the Enterprise will soar proudly in the museum for decades to come — a symbol not just of the creative imagination and innovative design that went into "Star Trek," but of humankind's undying hope for a better future.