USS Enterprise

The recovered three-foot-long model of the ‘Starship Enterprise’.

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Featuring the federation’s flagship, often referred to as the Starship Enterprise, it was also used in the original Star Trek pilot The Cage.

It became the prototype for the 11ft-long starship on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. This model was lost in the 1970s, it is thought, when Gene Roddenberry loaned it to the makers of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

After more than 40 years it was rediscovered last year and the finder brought it to Heritage Auctions for authentication.

Following research, Heritage contacted Eugene ‘Rod’ Roddenberry Jr, (who is caretaker of his father’s legacy) and arranged a handover.

The presentation took place at Heritage's Beverly Hills saleroom, where the Enterprise was stored for safekeeping.

Details of the agreement between the finder and Roddenberry Jr were not disclosed but Associated Press reported that Roddenberry Jr gave a reward in return for the model.

Heritage executive vice president Joe Maddalena said: “Once our team of experts concluded it was the real thing, we contacted Rod because we wanted to get the model back to where it belonged.

“We’re thrilled the Enterprise is finally in dry dock.”

USS Enterprise

A detail of the recovered model of the ‘Starship Enterprise’.

Rod Roddenberry, CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment, said: “After five decades, I’m thrilled that someone happened upon this historic model of the USS Enterprise. I remember how it used to adorn my dad’s desk.

“I am tremendously grateful to Heritage Auctions for facilitating the return of this iconic piece of Star Trek history to my family. I can’t wait to figure out how we are going to share it with my extended family, Star Trek fans around the world. We look forward to making that announcement.”