The Star Trek shuttlecraft Galileo is making a landing in Houston, coming to rest at Space Center Houston as a permanent exhibit.
Star Trek fans may remember the ill-fated voyage of Galileo, sent out from the Enterprise to explore a star system with a small crew led by First Officer Spock. In the episode "Galileo 7" from the original 1966 series, the crew barely managed to escape with their lives, and lost the Galileo in the process.
Ironically, the shuttlecraft movie prop nearly met a similar fate.
Space Center Houston spokesman Jack Moore told Hair Balls that after the series concluded, Galileo changed hands frequently over the years. The shuttlecraft is approximately 24 feet long and nine feet high, according to the auction Web site, and roughly the size of a trailer.
Its size made it hard to house, and often it sat outside exposed to the elements. Eventually it wound up at auction, where Star Trek fan and collector Adam Schneider purchased the vessel one year ago for $61,000, according to KHOU. At the time of purchase, the Galileo was coated in rust and would require repairs.
"The truth is it was not in good shape," Schneider told SPACE.com. "In fact, it was in terrible shape."
Schneider said the wood was intact but had corroded in a lot of areas. The interior metal had some cracking where water had come in and frozen, and the vessel was covered in dirt.
Schneider went about restoring the shuttlecraft, saying on SPACE.com that fans deserved to see Galileo restored.
"[Schneider] made it his mission to restore it to its original on-screen glory," Moore told Hair Balls. "He took it to a local wood restoration shop there in New York and they've been working on it diligently for a few months now."
As the shuttlecraft neared its final restoration, Schneider told SPACE.com that he sent a dozen different proposals to organizations to determine where the shuttlecraft would go. Amid considerations for TV prop museums and science fiction museums, Space Center Houston stood out as the right choice for the Galileo's new home.
"We had a conversation early on with Adam, and he called and he was interested in having Space Center Houston display Galileo, and we were certainly interested as well and we wanted to learn more about the project," Moore said. "So we all got together and we showed Adam around Space Center Houston and took him over to Johnson Space Center and really reiterated that this is the home for human space flying, and it really was a perfect fit."
Houstonians and other visitors will be able to see the Galileo at Space Center Houston's Zero-G Diner, where, Moore says, the area's overall theme is developing more of a science fiction atmosphere.
"[Galileo] really fits well in that area because we have a lot of high-energy activities, we have character shows, so it puts it into an environment that really has a lot more energy; it's a little bit more fanciful and it separates it from the artifact galleries where we have the actual flown vehicles," Moore said.
Space Center Houston is home to space vessels used for scientific achievements, such as the Gemini V, the Faith 7 Mercury Capsule and the America Capsule. While these displays will be in an area separate from the planned location of the Galileo, it raises the question of what place an artifact of science fiction has in a museum of science fact.
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According to Moore, the two almost have a symbiotic relationship, where one inspires the other.
"We look at the communicators used in the original [Star Trek] series," Moore said. "A handheld device has allowed you to communicate with people in remote locations, and it was such a far-fetched concept: It didn't have a cord, you could fit it in your pocket, you flipped it open and that's something that transpired to become a reality... So watching ideas come up and exist in the science fiction world, inspire the engineers and architects who actually develop technology for the real world and make that happen, we think is a beautiful thing."
While the Galileo will never see the final frontier, Moore said he expects the relationship between the real spacecrafts and the TV display at Space Center Houston to inspire future explorers and scientists.
Moore said the Galileo exhibit will be available with general admission, which allows visitors access to Space Center films, the NASA Tram Tour, the Astronaut Gallery and, of course, seeing the Galileo on display once it arrives by the end of summer.