Deep-space exploration vehicles such as the starship U.S.S. Enterprise in the iconic science fiction series "Star Trek" carry several auxiliary craft for short trips to other spacecraft or to make planet landings. "Galileo" is perhaps the most famous such vehicle.
The Galileo shuttlecraft is a Class F shuttlecraft carries up to seven passengers and has space-warp engines for interstellar travel. A Constitution-class starship like the U.S.S. Enterprise typically carries four shuttlecraft.
For "Star Trek," the sets that would represent Galileo were constructed by the Aluminum Model Toys company (AMT). The sets were built for free in exchange for the rights to manufacture plastic model kits of the show's various spaceships. Early designs by "Star Trek" designer Walter "Matt" Jefferies proved too complex to build in time, so AMT redesigned a boxier shape. [See Photos of the Galileo Restoration]
Car customizer Gene Winfield led the team that built the Galileo exterior mockup. The 23-foot (7 meters) mockup has a 5.5-foot (1.7 meters) ceiling height and is empty inside with no interior details. The mockup's framework was welded from 2-inch square steel tubing. Carpenters covered the frame with wood and sheet metal.
The mockup's three-panel hatch was operated by stagehands pulling cables. The cylindrical warp engine pods were made from oil well tubes. Aircraft surplus landing gear was added at the rear of the shuttle.
A separately-constructed interior set was more spacious than the exterior mockup and had a higher ceiling so that actors could stand upright without crouching. The interior set includes an "aft compartment" with its own exit to the outside, even though no such compartment could have fit into the exterior mockup.
In special effects sequences Galileo was represented by a small model. A miniature Enterprise hangar bay was also constructed.
After multiple failed restoration attempts and decades of exposure to the elements, Galileo was in bad shape. Wood had rotted, metal had rusted and only bits remained of the original exterior finish. In 2012, the carcass of Galileo was purchased at auction by super-fan Adam Schneider, working with “Star Trek” blogger Alec Peters.
Boat builders Hans Mikaitis and Ken Foster led the team of restorers. They stripped Galileo down to its steel framework, fabricating all-new wood panels and constructing a new mechanism for opening and closing the three-panel entry door.
Details such as the impulse engine and access hatch on the ship's rear had to be built from scratch. The warp engine pods and landing gear are still original parts from 1967. Fans of the show contributed to the project as well, offering information, rare photos and even the replica “busy box” installed on the Galileo’s stern.
The Galileo first appeared in a "Star Trek" episode aired in January 1967. The first official NASA mention of a "space shuttle" dates to 1968, during the original network TV run of "Star Trek." Prior to that, the concept had been called "orbital ferry" or "integral launch and re-entry vehicle."
The first real-life NASA shuttlecraft to be built was to be named Constitution in honor of the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution. The ship was renamed Enterprise in part thanks to 100,000 letters written by “Star Trek” fans. Enterprise was rolled out in a ceremony on September 17, 1976, that included most of the cast members of the original show.
- The Evolution of 'Star Trek' (Infographic)
- 'Star Trek - Into Darkness': A Photo Gallery
- The Top 10 Star Trek Technologies
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Karl's association with Space.com goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. From 2010 to 2016, Karl worked as an infographics specialist across all editorial properties of Purch (formerly known as TechMediaNetwork). Before joining Space.com, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web. He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University and now works as a freelance graphic designer in New York City.