When the smoke cleared and the music died down, Candy Torres could no longer contain herself. Looking at the shiny, restored Star Trek Galileo shuttlecraft sitting in Houston in all its TV glory, she broke down.
"All of a sudden I was just crying. I was in tears. I couldn't believe it," Torres said, donning a brown tourist engineer hat and a NASA mission operations shirt. "It meant something."
And Torres wasn't alone. Trekkies of all stripes arrived in Houston Wednesday for the momentous unveiling of the shuttlecraft that crash-landed on a hostile planet in the 1967 "Star Trek" episode called "The Galileo Seven." Some wore Scotty's Repair Shop T-shirts, others full-blown spandex outfits worn by Mr. Spock and his peers in the famous TV show and movies that have garnered a following so large and so devoted it is almost cult-like.
Adam Schneider paid $61,000 for the battered shuttlecraft in an auction and spent about a year restoring the fiberglass ship and making it look nearly as it did on that episode. He flew in from New York to mark the unveiling at the Space Center Houston, where it will be permanently displayed not far from NASA's Mission Control.
"Unbelievably proud," he said, beaming alongside the white shuttle. "Like sending your kid to college and having them get a job to build a successful life, because this was under our care for a year and we grew very attached.
Jeff Langston, 45, drove more than 160 miles from Austin with his two sons to see the moment. He and his 12-year-old son, Pearce, wore matching red Scotty's Repair Shop T-shirts. His 10-year-old son, Neo, couldn't find his shirt, but that didn't put a damper on the moment.
"It was very exciting," Neo said, bouncing on his feet. "When they filmed Star Trek the Galileo was cool and now that they remade it, it's cool to see a new version of the Galileo. And it's beautiful."
Richard Allen, the space center's 63-year-old CEO and president, hopes that just as the Star Trek movies and others like it inspired Torres to pursue a career in science and engineering, that today's generation will be similarly inspired when they see the Galileo.
"It's fantastic," he said of the shuttlecraft. "We're all about exciting and educating ... and I'm convinced that space is one of the best, if not the best, way of creating inquiry in young minds."