USS Enterprise Evolution in Photos: The Many Faces of Star Trek's Favorite Starship

The Enterprise Throughout History

Namco Bandai

Starship USS Enterprise, serial number NCC-1701, of the United Federation of Planets, has captivated audiences since the debut of "Star Trek" on television in 1966. That fascination has continued to the present day, as the latest installment of the science-fiction franchise, "Star Trek Into Darkness," opens in the US on May 16, 2013. Here we take a look at ships bearing the name of Enterprise in many different incarnations.

USS Enterprise (Sailing Vessel)

US Navy

The first of all US ships to bear the name of Enterprise was a Continental Navy sloop-of-war that served in the American Revolutionary War on Lake Champlain. Originally a British sloop named "George," it was captured by a small American force commanded by Colonel Benedict Arnold in 1775 and renamed. Later the US forces had to run the ship aground and destroy it in 1777 to avoid capture.

USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in Real Life

US Navy

A long series of sea vessels were named Enterprise throughout history. The eighth US ship to bear the name was the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The US Navy commissioned the giant vessel in 1962, which served until its deactivation in 2012. A new USS Enterprise (CVN-80) is scheduled to become operational in 2025. Regarding Star Trek, the naval warship may have inspired the name of the fictional starship. Also, in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," Uhura and Chekov visit the aircraft carrier Enterprise, though the filmmakers could not shoot aboard the actual ship.

Star Trek Crew Welcomes Real-Life Enterprise

NASA

In 1976, NASA's space shuttle Enterprise rolled out of the Palmdale manufacturing facilities, and was greeted by NASA officials and cast members from the original "Star Trek" television series. They are (L to R): NASA Administrator Dr. James D. Fletcher; DeForest Kelley, who portrayed Dr. "Bones" McCoy on the series; George Takei (Mr. Sulu); James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott); Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura); Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock); series creator Gene Roddenberry; an unnamed NASA official; and, Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov).

Space Shuttle Enterprise

NASA

In real life, the prototype space shuttle was named Enterprise (OV-101) following a write-in campaign by Star Trek fans. The orbiter conducts a 1977 test flight in this photo.

The VSS Enterprise of Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic

Another real-life craft, one of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo vehicles, bears the name VSS Enterprise. It glided over California's Mojave Air and Space Port during the first drop and glide test on Oct. 10, 2010. Eventually the company plans to take "space tourists" on commercial flights.

USS Enterprise (XCV 330)

Paramount Pictures

The experimental craft represents the first Starship Enterprise, although it only appeared as a illustration in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." It again appeared in a painting during the Star Trek: Enterprise episode, "First Flight," thereby dating it prior to 2143 in the Star Trek timeline.

Enterprise (NX-01)

CBS Studios

The United Earth Starfleet's Enterprise was an experimental prototype ship, commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer. It appeared as the titular vessel of the prequel television series Star Trek: Enterprise (2001–2005). A mirror version of the ship, ISS Enterprise (NX-01), appeared in the episode "In a Mirror, Darkly."

The Original Starship Enterprise (NCC-1701)

National Air and Space Museum

This model of the fictional starship Enterprise was used in filming the weekly hourlong “Star Trek” TV series that aired September 1966 to June 1969. The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, now displays the iconic model.

ISS Enterprise in the Mirror Universe

CBS Studios

This ship of the Terran Empire appeared in the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror," which involved a treacherous, violent mirror crew. The mirror ship appears almost identical to the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701).

USC Enterprise (NCC-1701) Animated

CBS Studios

Star Trek: The Animated Series ran from 1973-1974, and featured a Starship Enterprise retaining the original TV show's design, though the producers altered certain interior features, such as a second turbolift accessing the bridge.

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.