Thursday, July 5, 2012

Space Shuttle Enterprise rollout pass and press kit

On 12 March 1976, final assembly of NASA’s first space shuttle was completed at the Rockwell International plant in Palmdale, California (now part of Boeing). The shuttle bore the serial OV-101—for orbiter vehicle—and was originally to be named Constitution. Not only does this word have a special resonance for Americans, but the name has a long and proud heritage in the US Navy, and the shuttle was to be unveiled to the public on 17 September, Constitution Day.

However, Star Trek fans mobilised to ask the White House to name America’s first “real” (as in re-usable) spaceship after their beloved starship, Enterprise. John and Bjo Trimble, influential figures in the fan community, orchestrated a campaign which saw many thousands of letters sent. Estimates vary between 10,000 and 400,000, depending who you listen to.

On 7 September 1976, President Gerald Ford asked NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher to make the change, quipping “You know, I’m a little partial to the name Enterprise.”

This is a guest pass for the roll-out ceremony, which took place as scheduled ten days later, on 17 September:

It’s printed on thin card, on one side only, and measures 10 cm × 6.5 cm (4” × 2½”). The illustration is curious: it’s adapted from concept art of the shuttle being pushed out of the hangar in which it was constructed; this art appears on the NASA press kit for the event described below. However, as adapted here, it supposedly indicates the shuttle being towed out into the open, but shows the tractor driver still facing backwards. Note too the impossible shadows: the shadows under the tractor and shuttle confirm that the spacecraft is being towed out into the light of day, but the front half of the orbiter fuselage is in shadow, and the rear fuselage (still inside the darkened hangar) is illuminated.

The press kit for the event is thirty pages long and is printed on flimsy government-letter-sized paper. My copy is bound with a single staple in a position that makes opening it fully for scanning very difficult without damaging the document. I’ve included a few of the most interesting pages as a sample here.

I don’t normally post images on this blog that aren’t part of my collection itself, but as a dedicated Star Trek fan, I need to finish the story of the shuttle’s roll-out and this picture says it all really:

source: http://www.nasa.govStar Trek/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1204.html
The name Enterprise is clearly visible on the shuttle’s side. Pictured in front of her are most of the Star Trek cast. Left to right are: NASA Administator James C. Fletcher, DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), George Takei (Lt. Sulu), James Doohan (Scotty), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek’s creator), an unidentified NASA official, and Walter Koenig (Mr. Chekov). Note that they are wearing badges similar in design to the one at the top of this post, but theirs appear beige instead of blue.

And when the Enterprise finally rolled out of her hangar, the US Air Force band struck up the theme music from Star Trek.

In 1979, the first Star Trek film (simply titled Star Trek: The Motion Picture) repaid the favour. The recreation deck of the starship Enterprise is shown to feature depictions of earlier vessels to bear the name—the space shuttle among them (centre):

Art imitating life imitating art!

Those who know me know how much I abhor the movie that JJ Abrams released in 2009, named after Star Trek. It might be a reasonable action film (that’s not a genre I generally enjoy, so I don’t feel that I can fairly judge it on that count) but I think it fails as science fiction and fails badly as Star Trek. Among the saddest things about the film are its summer-blockbuster disposability and its complete lack of vision. Abrams’ attempt at Star Trek will never inspire anybody to don a pair of rubber ears, let alone campaign to have a spaceship renamed.

Copyright information: the guest pass, press kit, and photo of the Star Trek cast at the roll-out are all works of NASA, and as works of the US federal government, all are in the public domain. Copyright on the image from Star Trek: The Motion Picture belongs to Paramount Pictures. I claim that use here is fair use for the purposes of education and commentary, as permitted under 17 U.S.C. § 107.

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