Friday 29 January 2016

Original USS Enterprise model ready for restoration

As you might be aware, the original USS Enterprise filming miniature is in the possession of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Later this year it will find a new home within the museum, in the redesigned Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, claiming it's rightful place as one of the most important vehicles in the (future) history of human flight.

Before moving to her new home, the Smithsonian team are busy working to restore the Enterprise to her former glory, making repairs after years of display a model made for shorter term use in television production was never designed for. They are also reversing some of the not entirely faithful previous restorations. The plan is to return the model to how it appeared in The Trouble with Tribbles, when the last alterations were made during the production of the series. The Smithsonian have just posted a blog with an update on their work, revealing right now, the Enterprise is in pieces!

Some of what the Smithsonian are planning for the Enterprise has now been detailed. The upper surface of the saucer is the only section with the original paintwork intact, and this will be kept, and cleaned up. Other surfaces will be repainted, covering the previous restoration work with new paint perfectly matched to the original, as sampled from a well protected patch of paintwork accessed during the dismantling of the model.

The restoration team have used lots of different photography, scanning, and sampling techniques to gain an understanding of the model, and work that has been done to it over the years. But sometimes the simplest things are among the most insightful, such as this view inside the secondary hull. As you can see, there is no internal support structure; the model is rather miraculously still held together just from glue between the panels that make up the shape of the hull. To ensure a stress-free and long life for the model, during in the restoration a new internal support will be fabricated, to ensure stability of the hull, and prevent the nacelles dropping.

Also in the works are new lighting systems, to illuminate all those windows (the squarish chunks you can see in that interior photo are the window slots), and bring the nacelles back to life. Using the latest programmable LEDs, the iconic swirling nacelle effect can be achieved without hot bulbs and motors risking damage to the model when on display.

To see and read much more about what the restoration have done, and are planning, check out the Smithsonian blog. And if you're anywhere near Udvar-Hazy Center, where the restoration work is being done, make sure you visit this Saturday, when an open day will let you see work in progress first hand!

For a look back at the plans for, and recent journey of, the Enterprise, see my previous coverage on the moving of the model and plans for the new exhibition, and the first phase of analysis of the model prior to restoration.

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