The Starship Enterprise is Made of Poplar

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Last week marked the 45th anniversary of Star Trek's debut on TV. As part of the anniversary-related festivities, the Smithsonian is highlighting the original Enterprise model used on the show, which is part of the museum's permanent collection. (We're talking about the NCC-1701, naturally.) The model is 11 feet long and weighs 200 pounds. Surprise: it's partly made of wood -- poplar, to be precise. And the nacelle grills are brass! Who knew? Here's a bit from the collection notes:

Materials:
Primarily constructed of poplar wood, vacu-formed plastic, rolled sheet metal tubes for both the engine pods from the back of the struts to the start of the nacelle caps, and plastic for the main sensor dish and detailing (light covers, etc.). The front and rear of the engine pods or nacelles are of wood. The nacelle grill plates brass. Rolled steel wires were also inserted through its original pipe support for lights. ...

The model's principal designer, Walter "Matt" Jefferies, worked with concepts provided by Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry. At first, Paramount Studios constructed a rough 4-inch balsa and cardboard prototype. A 3-foot "pilot" model mostly of solid wood was then built by model-maker Richard C. Datin under subcontract to the Howard Anderson Company. Enlarging the plans for the 3-foot model resulted in the final 11-foot model shown here. The Anderson Company again turned to Datin who contracted it out to Production Model Shop of Burbank, California, with Datin supervising the construction while he did the detail work.

Paramount donated the model to the National Collection in 1974.

You can see another image of the model courtesy of Wikipedia. There's also a rather good Wikipedia page about the ship, including details of the various models created to represent it, including the poignant detail that model-maker Richard Datin passed away in January of this year. To the rest of you Trekkers: live long and prosper.

Image courtesy National Air and Space Museum.

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September 15, 2011 - 12:35pm
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