The famous phrase, “live long and prosper,” used so often by Spock from the original Star Trek television series, is a great fit for the subject of this article. During the NBC sci-fi show’s run, several episodes took characters off the U.S.S. Enterprise mothership and focused on the tighter quarters of its shuttlecraft. The best and most widely used of them was first named Galileo. The craft was destroyed in the episode on which it premiered but the full-size ship was renamed several times to take on the personas of other craft, including a Galileo II. Originally designed by show-talent Matt Jeffries, then finalized and built by automobile-customizer Gene Winfield, this 24 foot studio prop was constructed of metal and wood. Pictures seems to have found the craft in good shape as recent as 1986 but after that the prop was parked outside, exposed to the elements, and sat deteriorating for almost 25 years. Finally, in 2012, the damaged shell was put up for auction and sold for $70,150 to Adam and Leslie Schneider, who proclaimed to be interested in restoring it for the benefit of Star Trek fans around the world. A year later, the restoration is complete and the shuttle is ready for fan service once more as the pictures below reveal!
The Galileo is historical in the fact that this short-range fictional space vehicle ushered in the term “shuttle” into the vernacular of geeks everywhere. NASA’s Space Shuttle moniker was derived directly from this type of Trek craft and became a modern symbol of man’s efforts to reach space. Because of this significance and lack of any other adequate facilities available to display such a large prop, the owners decided to donate the restored shuttle to NASA’s Visitor Center in Texas, Space Center Houston. The finished shuttle was officially unveiled at its restoration site in New Jersey on June 22, 2013 and will be moved to the center at a later date.
In the following video, the travels of the craft throughout the television series itself and its recent journey through restoration are revisited. The prop was extremely weathered and in impossibly bad shape when it arrived for restoration. Fortunately, the challenge of bringing the craft back to its former glory was accepted and completed by Master Shipwrights, Inc. of Atlantic Heights, NJ. The video below shares the process, and does take its time showing you clips of the show which were important to the Galileo shuttle design, but If you want to skip to the part about the rebuild, take this jump. With one of Trek’s great movie scores playing over the pictures, you can feel the emotion tied to such a project of geeky proportions.
More about Galileo, the affection of the creation and admiration for this large anchor of geek nostalgia, can be found in this VideoFromSpace short documentary about the origins of the craft. The video is mainly an interview with the original builder who goes into great detail about the Galileo construction and how scenes for the show were filmed within its confines – definitely worth a watch.
Here is an interview taken shortly before the restoration completion which talks about the process.
And, finally, here is the very casual unveiling on June 22 in New Jersey, before being prepped for the move to Space Center Houston.
More pictures and all other information regarding this outstanding effort to keep an important piece of science fiction nostalgia intact, can be found at www.galileorestoration.com. More recent information and photos can be found on their Facebook page, TheGalileoRestoration.
I have been keeping up on this project for some time so I hope they will give more updates once the Galileo has been moved from the garage to its special resting place amongst space-flying friends in Houston. I find sci-fi television and movie props very KOOL, so hopefully I will get to see it sometime soon!
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While on YouTube watching the other video links here, be sure to check out the Smithsonian channel’s posted episode of Real Story about Star Trek, its beginnings and its affect on technology. It’s always KOOL to get a historical perspective on aspects of geek culture, even if a much of it is familiar or told before, especially about a television show which has touched so many lives for almost 50 years.