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8 Starship Enterprise Facts Every Trekker Should Know

USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), the starship in the original Star Trek TV series

To boldly go where no man has gone before, you'd need a really good starship - and to launch Star Trek, the pop culture phenomenon that entertained and inspired millions, you'd need a pretty darned good one! And that is exactly what the United Space Starship Enterprise delivered. Here are 8 Starship Enterprise facts every Trekker should know:

1. Meet the REAL Enterprise (Several of Them, Actually)

(L) The tenth HMS Enterprise, an Arctic survey sloop (1848), painting by WH Browne from the National Maritime Museum online collection;
(R) USS Enterprise at Valcour Island, Lake Champlain, New York (1776) from Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Before Star Trek, there have been many actual ships named Enterprise. The very first one of note was a French frigate L'Enterprise, which was captured by the British Royal Navy in 1705 and renamed as HMS Enterprise. It served as a British gun ship until it was wrecked just two years later. After this ship, there were 14 other HMS also named Enterprise (sometimes spelled Enterprize).

The United States have 8 battleships named Enterprise, including the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the world. The very first one (before the US became a country, so technically it was a ship of the Continental Navy) was an armed sloop on Lake Champlain in 1775 named the United States Ship (USS) Enterprise.

During the American Civil War, aeronaut and scientist Thaddeus S.C. Lowe built a balloon named Enterprise, to be used by the Union Army to perform aerial recon on Confederate troops.

(L) Enterprise, a gas inflated aerostat (1858); (M) Space Shuttle Enterprise; (R) Artist rendering of VSS Enterprise

And who can forget the Space Shuttle Enterprise? It was the very first Space Shuttle orbiter, built for NASA in 1976. The Shuttle was supposed to be named Constitution, but a write-in campaign successfully persuaded NASA to name it after the Star Trek starship. (Interestingly, the fictional Starship Enterprise was a Constitution-class vessel - coincidence? Hm....)

The last actual Enterprise hasn't been built yet but it already has a name: Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Enterprise and yes, it's an homage to Star Trek. It's a suborbital spaceplane being built by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin for the purposes of space tourism.

Ironically, when Sir Richard offered the first flight to William Shatner, the actor declined and revealed that he's actually afraid of space travel, "I'm interested in man's march into the unknown but to vomit in space is not my idea of a good time. Neither is a fiery crash with the vomit hovering over me." Shatner added that he's not entirely against the idea - he just needed some reassurance. "I do want to go up but I need guarantees I'll definitely come back." (Source)

2. No Rockets, Jets or Firestreams

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who pitched the TV show as "Wagon Train to the Stars," didn't tell art director Matt Jefferies what Starship Enterprise should look like, instead he told the bewildered art director what he did not want to see. Starship Concept Art has reprint of a nifty article in Star Trek: The Magazine by Jefferies about the design process:

"In my approach to Star Trek I wanted to be as practical as possible," Jefferies says. "I could tell Gene was serious enough, but I really didn't know where to start. I knew the Enterprise was going to be on the cutting edge of the future, but essentially he gave me the job of finding a shape, and I didn't know what the shape looked like." Although Roddenberry knew a lot about his ship, he had never visualized it, and consequently made the situation more complicated since he couldn't give Jefferies a detailed sense of direction. According to Jefferies, Roddenberry was absolutely clear to avoid any resemblance to a 1960's rocket ship. "Gene described the 100-150 man crew, outer space, fantastic, unheard-of speed, and that we didn't have to worry about gravity. He had emphasized that there were to be no fins, no wings, no smoke trails, no flames, no rocket.

After hundreds of drawings, Jefferies came up with this:

Image via Starship Concept Art

In his honor, the crawl spaces on all of the Starfleet starships on Star Trek are called Jefferies tubes.

3. The Original Name of USS Enterprise

That's right - the iconic starship wasn't always named USS Enterprise ... in the original draft, Roddenberry named it USS Yorktown after a World War II aircraft carrier. The starship was commanded by Captain Robert April, then Christopher Pike, before Roddenberry settled on James Tiberius Kirk.

By the way, William Shatner was the third choice for Kirk. The role was offered to Lloyd Bridges and Jack Lord, both of whom declined it.

4. The Origin of NCC-1701

How did the famous USS Enterprise get its registration number NCC-1701 is the stuff of legend. There are conflicting stories, including one where 1701 is a tribute to Roddenberry's childhood neighbor's house number or that Jefferies got it from the registration number of his airplane.

Here's Matt Jefferies' explanation when he was asked during a BBC Interview:

NC, by international agreement, stood for all United States commercial vehicles. Russia had wound up with four Cs, CC CC. It’d been pretty much a common opinion that any major effort in space would be two expensive for any one country, so I mixed the US and the Russian and came up with NCC.

The one seven zero part - I needed a number that would be instantly identifiable, and three, six, eight and nine are too easily confused. I don’t think anyone’ll confuse a one and a seven, or the zero. So the one seven stood for the seventeenth basic ship design in the Federation, and the zero one would have been serial number one, the first bird.

5. Land the Ship? Too Expensive, Let's Teleport Everybody Instead!

Originally, Roddenberry envisioned the USS Enterprise to land on various planets, but it turned out to be too expensive as it would require them to build expensive sets. The next idea was to use shuttles - but when filming began, the full-sized shooting model wasn't ready. So, they came up with the idea of "beaming down" the crew via a teleportation device and thus the transporter was born! (Source)

In 1994, TIME Magazine interviewed Star Trek technical expert Michael Okuda about the intricacies of the transporter:

"It should be possible if we decompile the pattern buffer."

Transporters can send people instantly from one location to another by converting their molecules into energy, then reassembling them. Every living being has a distinct pattern of molecules; the pattern buffer fixes the configuration by adjusting for the Doppler effect -- the apparent change in the frequency of the energy waves caused by motion.

"I'll verify the Heisenberg compensators."

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that you cannot know a subatomic particle's exact position and its exact direction and velocity at the same time. To transport people you have to know all those things, so the Heisenberg compensator was devised to overcome that problem. It's an attempt by the Trek writers to signal that they are at least aware of the issue. And how does the Heisenberg compensator work? "It works very well, thank you," says Okuda.

6. The Next Gen Enterprise: Hilton in Space

Jefferies designed the bridge in the original USS Enterprise in the style of a Navy battleship, with specialized workstations for its crew. When set designer Richard James updated the bridge for Star Trek: The Next Generation (restriction: no purple!), Jefferies was asked about the new look. To which he replied:

Gene asked me how I liked the show, and I said that he had taken the bridge of my ship and turned it into the lobby of the Hilton. And I have just never watched any of them since. I’m lost.

Ironically, Star Trek and Hilton actually did come together to create a theme attraction. Star Trek: The Experience opened in 1998 at the Las Vegas Hilton. It closed in 2008 due to low attendance (though it is due to re-open in a different location in 2010).

7. The Original Star Trek Enterprise Prop

Photo: Carolyn Russo / Smithsonian

If you visit the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian, definitely check out the actual model of the Starship Enterprise used in the filming of the original Star Trek TV show.

The hull and one nacelle of the original Star Trek Starship Enterprise model as it was received by the National Air and Space Museum from Paramount Studios on March 1, 1974. Image WEB11192-2009. Photo: Smithsonian (with permission)

The model of the Enterprise was sent to the museum in crates, donated by Paramount Studios five years after the series ended.

Enterprise during its first Smithsonian restoration. SI Neg #74-3977. Photo: Smithsonian (with permission)

The Smithsonian performed extensive restoration to put the starship model back together, and for the first time ever, the photos of the restoration process are available to the public at the museum's blog.

The Museum Registrar Gregory K.H. Bryant has more on this behind the scenes look at the icon science fiction model: Link - Thanks Llori!

8. The Hot-Rod Starship Enterprise

For his movie Star Trek, director J.J. Abrams decided that the USS Enterprise could use a face-lift and worked with artists at Industrial Light & Magic to update the starship - like Roddenberry, he gave a simple directive:

"He wanted a hot-rod type of vehicle, but they also wanted to preserve the Enterprise kind of look," model maker John Goodson said in a presentation at ILM's San Francisco headquarters earlier this month.

"J.J. Abrams kept saying, 'Make it a bigger movie. Make it a bigger shot,'" creative director David Nakabayashi added. "I think that's one thing you see in this film, at least: The stuff I've seen is just everything is big."

SCI FI Wire has the interview with model maker John Goodson and visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett about the new Enterprise:

The official website for JJ Abram's Star Trek movie has a nifty 360° panorama of the bridge of the new starship:

Well, as I always understood it, a Trekker was someone who was a fan of the newer series (DS9, VOY, ENT...obviously there aren't any from ENT *snicker snicker*). A Trekkie was a fan starting with TOS or TNG. Most Trekkers become Trekkies though.
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well, i'm old enough to remember the truth.

trekkie is what a trek fan USED to be called.

trekker is what they called us when making fun of nerds started to lose its cool.

now that nerds rule the world, does it even matter?
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The Enterprise was not a shuttle orbiter, it was an engineering mockup made from low cost materials to make sure the parts fit - read lots of plywood and styrofoam. And I can see it from the parking lot at work.
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"trekkie" is what people who are not familiar and love the franchise call the fans. Fans who admire Star Trek prefer to be called "Trekkers." Trekkie is rather a pejorative put-down nickname.
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The Enterprise D had only one bathroom, the Enterprise and the Enterprise A had bathrooms in every stateroom.

Gah, I'm a nerd.
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While it is true that the Space Shuttle Enterprise never went into space, it was NOT made out of plywood and styrofoam. It was an actual orbiter just without engines or heat shield. It was used in glide tests (5 unmanned and 3 manned) and was mated to an external fuel tank and boosters in launch configuration for vibration tests. Just want to clear that up.
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Dear People,

I am a professor at the University of Cincinnati, you can tell by my email address -- it’s real and verifiable, and I’m writing you to ask that you take a look at a article I wrote which is recently published in Integral Review Journal online.
I am sending it to you for one reason, aside from the basic question “what do you think of it?” I’m sending it to you because of the impact you have on the minds of young people throughout this world. This article I wrote, although it may not seem so at first reading, is about the common bond in thought and wonder shared by all human beings. What this has to do with you is simply put: If we humans are as Neil Armstrong put it in July of 1999, “…humanity is not forever chained to this planet….” how can we hope to interact with any being we may one day perhaps encounter, if we cannot accept the wonderful and beautiful diversity of humanity; and the good in all the wisdom of every culture?
I believe that finding common ground starts here, at home with each of us individually. My hope is to transcend dogmatic division, but as a World War II veteran I’m afraid this nutsy professor may lack the spark that inspires interest. My method is an attempt to examine how the ancient minds merged The Arts with their Science, as well as the universality of (philosophical) thought in every culture. My hope is for human beings to one day collectively transcend divisive dogma.
Maybe one day, before I leave this life I would be able to put a panal together and participate in a documentary about humanity’s shared insights rooted in freedom and agape, philosophies through which we can embrace each other as human beings. Because only then can we move on to explore beyond “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.” JFK 6/63.
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The Enterprise that was made of plywood was a scaled down mock up used for a river race (-- regatta?) in Tampa,Fl. This was in the early 1980's. It was built by a group of young men, some employed in the electronics industries, one that I know of employed by a company that made flight simulators - They raced it more than one year and might even have won.
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@dawes #12: a good part of my childhood was financed by my mother's participation in the construction of the space shuttle 'enterprise' and mom wasn't a carpenter! mock-ups do not need flight recorders, ring-laser gyros, hybrid accelerometers or any of the various and assorted other cutting edge [for the time] tech that she took part in building for the 'enterprise'. while, as johnny73 points out, she never went to space, the bird did fly. she was piggy-backed to cruising altitude atop a boeing 747 before being dropped and left to fly to and land at edwards, repeatedly. styro and plywood? please do a little research before insulting the thousands of people who contributed to the creation of the prototype or the men who flew her.
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My dad was a fan of Star Trek and I've watched my fair share of it with him in the past. As I still enjoy watching it today. I will admit neither him or I would ever be classified as Trekkies. We don't go crazy buying models or collect posters or remember everything about the show. My dad has been gone now since 05' but if he was still around, him & I would have so watched the new "Star Trek" movie together. The reason for me writing this is that theres many sci-fi things that can be watched and never believed possible. Wither by advancement in tech. or otherwise humanly key quoting "Humanly" poss. some things just want ever happen. I always doubted the "Beam Me Up" thing being something that could be done. But advancement in technology has me not in doubt any longer. With development of nanos and laser modifications I believe we may just about be able to do that. If we can one day take a laser beam ride and nano be redeveloped we wouldn't need a space ship to get to mars. Simply be "Beamed Up" there. We will always need vessels and the USS Enterprise can carry our technology into space for my theory would only be the ability to laser beam nanos from one location to another but not through anything. For that would be to advanced it would be like making a blueray disc player able to read multiple discs on top of one another with a laser beam. If you follow me on that. My theory would be more cost effective then "Surrogates" for the nanos would reconstruct us at another location with all of our information; dna, characteristics, individuality, personality, knowledge. Then other beams of laser can change that nano information for another person to work on say Mars for exp. Beaming a laser to mars isn't sci-fi at all. The computer for Microsoft and Intel to work on would be to recreate the information of us there. We could learn about planets by just sending a processor there to process the nanos received via the laser. "Beam Me Up, Scotty!"
R.I.P Dad 55'-05' (maybe one day I can take his ashes into outer space)
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The set "Trekfan" contains at this count three subsets.
1)"Trekkies" are generally younger fans.
2)"Trekkers" are what Trekkies become with a number of years and/or a college degree added.
3)The most esoteric subset of the set "Trekfan" is the "Trekkist". These are the people who write their master's thesis in aerospace engineering on the design of REAL starships, and enjoy Star Trek as prophetic literature!
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The Trekker/Trekkie debate dates back to at least the early 70's, when certain fans, who saw themselves as far more sophisticated and mature than "those" fans, decided they didn't want to be lumped in with the undisciplined Trekkies, so they started saying "no, no, we're serious fans, we're Trekkers."

In other words, Trekkie = die hard fan, whereas Trekker = die hard fan who's embarrassed of fandom, i.e., snob.

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The one thing that I have and Star Trek invincibility. Star Trek has the staying power. It is not a question of Trekkies or Treckkers. It is the optimism for the future. Seems dark days are coming, but there is hope. Star trek is the most watched program in the world. In that, there is hope that the message gets through. The message is...either we live together...or we die together.
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Live long and prosper I just think it's all soooooooooooo COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!

UK fans got to Star Trek a bit after the States but we're well in there now. Star Wars was NEVER as good.
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Thank you thefluteplayer and Capt Robert April. You two nailed the trekkie/trekker agruement. I've been watching Star Trek since I can remember and I don't feel that time has changed my status of loving the series and the movies (except that abomination of a movie that was ST V). And if Mr Roddenberry says we're Trekkies, we're Trekkies.
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StarTrek Future

-- I freely place this idea in the public domain
-- Paramount! this means you can do it...

This can take place in the rebooted universe but
that is not necessary. In fact perhaps a way might
be found to tunnel between the two universes.

It is 70 years beyond Picard. (Just as Picard is
70 years beyond Kirk)

Every room in the enterprise (and most modern
starships) is a holodeck - for the flexibility
it gives. "Computer, remove the bed and replace it
with a pool table (or a swimming pool)"

The Borg have decided to only assimilate
volunteers and are just now beginning to
integrate into the Federation. Most Borg have a
penchant to proselytize everyone around them for voluntary assimilation.

While no exactly enemies, the Romulans are still
very territorial and excitable.

After several unfortunate incidents the Klingons
are unhappy with the Federation, with factions calling
for a break away and WAR.

The Dominion have been acting up, making occasional incursions into federation space. The Vorta have been
playing the role of spy.
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