Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Free The Enterprise

Lein Shory:

We spent considerable time in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum. But as cool as the Smithsonian is, I discovered a travesty about which I am compelled to write.

As much as I had looked forward to seeing the statues of Jefferson and Lincoln, the dinosaur fossils, and Apollo Lunar Module, and the Spirit of St. Louis, I looked forward to paying homage to another monument to American greatness, the model of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise used in the original Star Trek series.

We made our way through the Air & Space Museum, finding plenty to marvel at, even if my boys didn't quite get what they were seeing and my wife and sister-in-law are insufficiently appreciative of air and space technology.

But no Enterprise.

I remembered it being prominently displayed, and I had even checked the website to make sure it was still there. But I walked from one end to another on both floors, and nothing.

We had not gone downstairs in the gift shop--I didn't even see a stairway, and certainly no indication that such a majestic item was displayed there.

Evan and I went down to have a look, and sure enough, there it was, still stately, still dignified, still glorious, even if relegated to the far corner in the basement of the gift shop. The very model in that familiar grainy video, orbiting dozens planets of styrofoam and spray paint.

I hate running down the Smithsonian guys, because they are the awesome preservers of some of the awesomest of awesome air and space awesomeness. But this is like, I don't know, letting the Argo rot away in a garage or something.

I hope you will join me and let the Smithsonian curators know that the The U.S.S. Enterprise should be restored to a place of honor in the Air & Space Museum. If for some absurd reason this is not possible, then I would accept its movement to American History, so long as it is given the proper respect. (To make matters worse, I just noticed that they misspelled "starship" on the official website entry.)

You can let the Smithsonian know how you feel here. If need be, write your representative. Write President Obama, who once claimed to "believe in the final frontier." Write Shatner.

This injustice cannot stand.

What he said. There must be a far better resting place for the original Enterprise than the basement of a gift shop.


  1. Mr. Collier,

    As someone who has worked in the aerospace field for a long time, including stints on several space projects, I respectfully disagree with you and the writer of the article on the status of the model of the Enterprise from the science fiction show Star Trek.

    In my view, this object has no legitimate place in the National Air and Space Museum. Period. Nor should the museum exhibit any other items from movies, TV shows, radio broadcasts, or other media that are related to fictional projects such as Star Trek, Star Wars, or the like.

    The Museum is meant to be a collection of items from the History of Flight, not from fantasy or sf. As such, these items belong in a different museum devoted to such things, along with other appropriate materials, such as UFO abductions, crop circles, Bigfoot sightings, etc.

    I collect sf and fantasy books and magazines, along with history and engineering books and periodicals. I am currently writing some novels that I hope to sell in those genres. I inherited a large number of manuals and documents from my late uncle who was a decorated Marine pilot and later, manager on the Mercury project. So I am not someone who disdains fiction.

    But there is a place for everything, and the NASM is not the place for fictional materials, whatever their merit. The Museum is limited in what it can display, and wasting precious exhibit space on fictional items seems to me to be the wrong choice, when there are several aircraft and spacecraft that would be of more benefit to the viewing public and visiting scholars.

    The Museum should be focused on what the history of flight was, what the present day holds, and what is to come in the future, such as the “New Space” materials, based on real proposals and ideas.

    Don Parker

  2. Don,

    Thanks for the comment, and my apologies for being so late in responding.

    I think you have a perfectly valid point, and it's something I wrestled with myself (I'm an aerospace engineer, space buff, and the grandson of one of NASA's original cadre). That said, I still think the original Enterprise model does have a place in aerospace history, and is deserving of its unique status as the only piece of fiction in the NASM. I'm sure you know at least as many engineers and space scientists as I do who were led to the field via afternoon reruns of "Star Trek"; I dare say the show has had nearly as much of an impact on our profession as the actual space program.

    As a certain fictional captain would say, though, I would draw the line there. As much as I love, say, the Millenium Falcon, one model is enough. But I do think this one deserves better than the basement.