The traveling exhibit Star Trek: The Exhibition is currently running through this summer at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) as part of the Center’s Sci-Fi Summer. Showcasing the world of Star Trek, the Sci-Fi Summer program presents how the science fiction world of Trek helped to influence the development of our technology. It’s a great place to go if you are a Star Trek or science fiction fan not just because of the Trek-themed exhibits and attractions but because it melds that sci-fi aspect to NASA’s real life world. You get to see where we’ve been and how far we have to go.
Star Trek: The Exhibition features a scale model of the Enterprise, and the actual props and costumes used in the Star Trek shows and films. At the KSC, the exhibit is broken up into two different buildings. One where IMAX films are shown (and is currently presenting Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 3D) has a room dedicated to the original Star Trek series, though props and costumes from the Kirk-era films can be seen. The highlight is a well-detailed replica of the original Enterprise bridge complete with dedication plaque, consoles and the captain’s chair that anyone can sit on for golden photo opportunities.
At another building near the tour bus terminal is a larger exhibit room dedicated to Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. This exhibit displays a mock-up of the Reman Scorpion fighter craft seen in Star Trek: Nemesis and partial recreations of the Enterprise D’s sickbay and engine room. There are models, numerous props and costumes worn and used by the actors and a Klingon chair that you can sit on (there are also captain chairs from the Enterprise B and D but those are roped off). Additionally one side of the exhibit’s wall has a mural with a detailed timeline of NASA and Trek history. The opposing wall displays the costumes. A nice touch to this exhibit were two actors dressed as Vulcans from the far future who stayed in character and interacted with visitors. The uniforms they wore were the ones worn by 29th century Starfleet officers as seen in the Voyager episode “Relativity.”
The KSC has Trek costumes and factoids peppered throughout the facility with several famous delta shield symbol on the grounds that act as arrows to guide visitors to Trek-related exhibits and attractions. For example one path lead sto the rocket garden where a floor painting shows how large the Enterprise ships are in comparison to the horizontally displayed Saturn 1B rocket. It’s staggering to consider how large the Trek ships are when you walk the length of the rocket. There was so much to see at the KSC that one could easily spend an entire day on the grounds.
In front of the IMAX building was a Star Trek Shuttlecraft Simulator Adventure. Basically it’s a mocked-up Enterprise D shuttle with a simulator inside and the ride lasted about four minutes. With Lt. Worf on speakers acting as the pilot, the shuttle exits the Enterprise D during a battle with a Borg cube. The shuttle then races to Earth to deliver a Borg data node while evading smaller Borg spheres. This was probably the least satisfying part of the visit for two reasons; there wasn’t any air conditioning inside the simulator, which made the experience quite warm and the animated graphics were primitive. It was a ride to skip if the lines were long and the day was hot.
One really impressive attraction was Star Trek Live, which played until December 31, 2011 (whereas the Sci-Fi Summer exhibits ran through September 5) in the Astronaut Encounter auditorium. In this presentation, audience members were Starfleet Academy cadets attending their first training session, that’s pretty amusing since many attendees included children and senior citizens! Anyway, your live instructor is Commander Shaun Christopher who wore a Star Trek: Enterprise-era jumpsuit. Observant fans of the franchise knew that this was the same Christopher mentioned to be the son of Air Force pilot Captain John Christopher from the original Star Trek episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday.” Before he began the cadets’ training, the session was interrupted onscreen by a tattooed Romulan similar to the ones seen in the recent Star Trek film.
The Romulan threatened to destroy the International Space Station with his Narada ship unless Christopher met his demands. Soon, a Vulcan female in the “Relativity”-era uniform arrived and offered aid. The show then cleverly taught the audience science facts and the aspects of working and living in space. Much of this was done with audience participation. In one humorous segment tribbles were tossed into the audience, who were then supposed to help gather them up (one guy tried to keep one but his wife made him return it!). Admittedly, the show was a bit cheesy but it was a lot of fun and the attention to detail on the stage was noteworthy. The actors also performed their roles well.
Trying to see all the Trek-themed exhibits and attractions, plus the rest that the KSC offered took up the entire day. A return visit is a must for any fan of either Star Trek or the space program to find every nook and cranny at the KSC. The trek (pardon the pun) out to Cape Canaveral is a worthwhile and fantastic diversion for sci-fi fans visiting the Orlando area. The KSC should consider bringing back the Trek exhibits at some point in the future. Star Trek: The Exhibition is currently running through May in the St. Louis Science Center. While it’s not a substitute for the lamented Star Trek: The Experience these traveling exhibits are a great substitute wherever they are located.
Article and images by José Soto