Thirty-three years ago today, the U.S.S. Enterprise made its maiden voyage after receiving its blessing from the original Star Trek crew.
No, not that Enterprise. We're talking about the first space shuttle orbiter, which was named after the most famous ship in Starfleet and which made its first flight test on Feb. 18, 1977, mounted to a Boeing 747, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.
The test assessed Enterprise's structural integrity and performance handling qualities as a proof of the orbiter design.
What we love, though, is the NASA photo above of Star Trek cast members in 1976 at the Palmdale, Calif., manufacturing plant where the orbiter Enterprise was assembled. Don't they look great? (And where's Captain Kirk, William Shatner?)
Here's part of the Sentinel's story:
NASA's first step into the Space Shuttle program was an orbiter named Enterprise, which served as a model for future orbiters Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. (Though they are often referred to as "space shuttles," an orbiter must be mated to a bright orange external tank and two skinny solid rocket boosters to merit the name.)
Enterprise was originally named Constitution, in honor of the U.S. Constitution's bicentennial and much to the disappointment of sci-fi fans everywhere. As this was the first "spaceship" for Americans (outside of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules), why wouldn't NASA name it after the popular TV series Star Trek? Fans all across the country agreed and began a mass letter-writing campaign to urge the White House to select the name Enterprise. The White House gave in to the Spock-loving fans' requests and Enterprise was born. ...
Enterprise participated in 16 tests at the facility: three ground taxi tests, five captive-inactive tests, three captive-active tests and five free flights. The orbiter's first captive-inactive test took place on Feb. 18, 1977.