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February 26, 2024

The Cast of Star Trek Greeting the Space Shuttle Enterprise as It Rolls Out of the Hangar on Sept. 17, 1976

September 17, 1976: NASA unveils its first space shuttle, the Enterprise, in Palmdale, California. Named after the ship from Star Trek, the show’s original cast was in attendance. A year later, the Enterprise became the first space shuttle to fly freely.

NASA originally planned to name OV-101 Constitution to honor the nation’s foundational document, with the public rollout of the vehicle planned for Constitution Day in 1976. Fans of the science fiction TV series Star Trek mounted a determined write-in campaign, before the age of the Internet and social media, to NASA and to President Gerald R. Ford to instead name this first vehicle Enterprise, after the fictional starship made famous by the show.

By one account, these fans sent hundreds of thousands of letters. During a Sept. 8 meeting at the White House – coincidentally, the 10th anniversary of the debut of the original TV show on NBC – President Ford advised NASA Administrator Fletcher that he was partial to the name Enterprise, saying, “It is a distinguished name in American naval history, with a long tradition of courage and endurance. It is also a name familiar to millions of faithful followers of the science fiction television program Star Trek. To explore the frontiers of space, there is no better ship than the space shuttle, and no better name for that ship than the Enterprise.”

When the vehicle made its public debut at Rockwell’s Palmdale, California, facility, on Sept. 17, 1976, it bore the name Enterprise.

More than 600 invited guests and 185 media representatives attended the ceremony. John F. Yardley, NASA associate administrator for the Office of Space Flight, opened the event and served as master of ceremonies.

In his remarks, NASA Administrator Fletcher called the rollout a “very proud moment for the agency,” adding that the new reusable space transportation system will “benefit this nation and all the nations of the world.” He then directed that Enterprise begin the rollout.

As Enterprise emerged from the hangar, the Air Force Band of the Golden West from March Air Force Base in Riverside County, California, played Alexander Courage’s Star Trek musical score. Several Star Trek cast members as well as the show’s creator Gene Roddenberry were on hand to witness the historic event, as were the four astronauts who were scheduled to conduct the approach and landing tests with Enterprise – Fred W. Haise, C. Gordon Fullerton, Joe H. Engle, and Richard H. Truly.


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