The Galileo shuttlecraft seen in the original Star Trek series recently sold at auction for over $70,000 and is about to undergo a complete restoration. After the series was canceled in 1969, it spent most of its time neglected in various storage yards and hangers. Some tried to restore it in the past but because it was only designed to have a short life span as a TV prop, it’s been an expensive and uphill struggle to keep it maintained. Considering the popularity of Star Trek and the way the model of the Enterprise has been so lovingly preserved, it does seem strange that the same cant be said about the shuttle. You would think that fans of the series would be crying out for it to be placed in a museum but in fact, it’s spent most of it’s time deteriorating under a tarpaulin cover. Here is the story of the neglected shuttlecraft.
The Transporter in Star Trek was developed because the show didn’t have the budget to land the Enterprise on a planet every week. So to get around the financial problem, they created the Transporter so that with a cheap, simple effect, they could beam the crew from one location to the other and bypass the expensive special effect of the ship landing on a planet. But almost as soon as the first season started, it became obvious that the Enterprise needed some sort of axillary craft to transport crew and goods. An example of this is In the episode ”The Enemy Within” where Sulu and other crew members are freezing to death on a planet but they cant be beamed up due to a malfunction with the Transporter. Plan B would be to send a shuttle to pick them up but they hadn’t been ”invented” yet in terms of the series.
In “The Conscience of the King”, Kirk takes Lenore Karidian to the observation deck that overlooks the hangar bay and refers to the shuttles but they were not shown on screen. It was later in the first season that we actually get to see one.
Named after 7th century physicist, mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei, the Galileo shuttlecraft made its first appearance in the episode ”The Galileo Seven,” an episode that was based on the 1939 film ‘Five Came Back’ and is regarded as one of the best episodes of the Original Series. It involves around Spock in command of a group that takes the shuttlecraft to examine Murasaki 312, a a quasar-like formation. But the Galileo is pulled off course and they crash land on a planet which is inhabited by large ape men armed with enormous spears. When some of the crew start dying, you get some great conflict between the crew as they start to question Spock’s leadership skills. Its also one of the first episodes you get to see the Spock/McCoy love/hate dynamic develop.
In ”The Galileo Seven,” the shuttle is very much a character itself in the same way the Enterprise is in the series. It serves as a safety net for the stricken crew and and you are there step by step as Mr Scott desperately tries to fix the Galileo so it can take off and ferry them to safety. There is genuine sadness when the Galileo burns up in the atmosphere during the climax of the episode. You really feel like it’s been on a journey and ”The Galileo Seven” is the episode when fans of Star Trek fell in love with the shuttlecraft.
Matt Jefferies, Star Trek’s production designer who designed the Enterprise and most of the other props seen on the show, originally conceived the shuttle to look more curved with shapes that echoed the design of the Enterprise. But the design was considered too costly to construct and that lead to the involvement of AMT, the model kit manufacturing company. In exchange for rights to make the model kit, AMT built the exterior and interior of the redesigned shuttlecraft which this time was more angular in shape. The new design was based on a sketch by Matt Jefferies of a ”Space Dock Utility Craft” that industrial designer Thomas Kellogg, modified into the shuttle that we know today. Kellogg was also the man who designed the Studebaker Avanti and there is a passing resemblance to the Galileo shuttlecraft.
When the series came to an end, the life size and miniature models were no longer needed and disposed off. The full size model was donated by Paramount to “The Braille Institute” a charity that works with the blind in Los Angeles. After it was deemed a fire risk, it was sold to to a man called Roger Hiseman who wanted to buy it for his son, unfortunately he made the decision to keep the shuttle in his front garden. It was already considered an eyesore by his neighbours but as the shuttle’s condition deteriorated further, Hiseman’s neighbours started a petition to force him to remove it.
Fortunately, along came Mr. Haskins who bought the Shuttle from Roger Hiseman and spent $8500 of his own money to fully restore it to it’s former glory in time for Star Trek’s 20th anniversary in 1986. The restored shuttle was put on display at the California “Creation” Convention.
It was quite an amazing achievement on Mr Haskin’s part and that is why it seems even more bizarre that after all the hard work gone into it’s reconstruction, better care wasn’t taken to store the shuttle properly once it was no longer on public display. It ended up back outside at the mercy of the elements and again ended up in a disheveled state. In someways you can understand the problem, as this picture shows it rotting next to some buses and caravans in California, you really get a sense of the size of it (it was 24 feet long and 14 feet wide) and storage would be an issue if you are not willing to pay for it to be done properly.
In 1989, the shuttle was in need of another restoration and rather than spend anymore money on it, the iconic prop was sold for $3000 to a Lynne Miller of Akron, Ohio. Lynne was a member of the USS Lagrange, a Star Trek fan group and she asked fellow group members Tim Gillespie and William Krause to help restore the Galileo so it could go on display next to the model of the USS Enterprise.
The work stated and moved along slowly. However in 1993, before the reconstruction was complete, the members of USS Lagrage had a major falling out and the project was abandoned.
Tim Gillespie defended his decision to abandon the reconstruction of the Galileo after Star Trek fans laid blame squarely at the doors of USS Lagrage;
The Galileo was the sole property of Lynne Miller. Although some chapter members assisted Lynne from time to time and two of our members were handling the actual restoration, all the decisions regarding the shuttle were in the hands of Lynne. As club president at the time (and knowing Lynne as I did), I insisted that anything regarding the shuttle was done purely at Lynne’s discretion and not as an “official” Lagrange project. Lynne was a very difficult person to deal with and when the inevitable problems arose (and they did) I didn’t want any fingers pointed at the chapter. To suggest that the Lagrange “mishandled” the Galileo is completely wrong. We neither owned it nor did we make any decisions regarding it. Whatever happened to the Galileo was completely the responsibility of Lynne Miller.
Personally, I haven’t seen Lynne Miller since 1998 when I left Trek fandom for good. If I had to guess, the Galileo no longer exists or it is in such disrepair that it is no longer salvageable. It was not something you could move around easily and required constant upkeep. Bill and Tom, when they gave up the project due to problems with Lynne, had completed most of the restoration of the main hull. Bill Krause is probably one of the most talented and meticulous people you could ever hope to meet and I assure you what they did with the restoration was first class.
However, if this thing has been hauled around from location to location and left outside for any length of time without proper storage, it’s just not going to hold up. You have to remember that it was a prop – meant to be used on a soundstage and then discarded. It wasn’t built to withstand California sandstorms and Ohio winters. The guys did the best they could with it under difficult conditions but God only knows what has happened to it in the last 13 years. I know how much such an iconic piece of Trek history means to many out there, but actually owning this white elephant, if it exists, would be a huge, major undertaking – a veritable money pit, if you will.
- Restore the Galileo in the most professional and accurate way possible.
- Make the Galileo available for fans to see and tour the Galileo for the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek.
- Find a permanent home for the Galileo in a museum that will guarantee she is always available for public viewing in a safe, indoor environment.
In order to do this, they estimate they need at least £100,000 and are asking for contributions from fans to get the project off the ground. If they are successful, they plan to take it on tour for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek in 2016. If you wish to make a donation or follow the progress of the project, you can visit galileorestoration.com.
I’ll leave you with a video, filmed during the shuttlecraft’s reconstruction in 1991.