Paramount long ago donated the iconic shuttle to a school, and from there it was lost. Adam Schneider of Livingston, New Jersey -- a lifelong "Star Trek" fan and collector -- found out about an auction that listed the famous prop.
Schneider purchased the shuttle for $61,000, despite rotted wood and a cracked and bent metal frame. "It wasn't meant to last 50 years. It was meant to last three or four seasons," said Alec Peters, who runs the CBS archive of Star Trek props and consulted Schneider on the restoration.
"This is the most significant Star Trek prop in the wild," Schneider said. "My plan was always to take one for the community. I wanted to buy it, fix it and donate it where people can see it."
The original builder of the prop, Gene Winfield, suggested Schneider find a boat restorer. Master Shipwrights in New Jersey took on the project, and despite some delays from Hurricane Sandy, completed the year-long restoration of the shuttle with a new fiberglass frame.
With the Galileo looking nearly exactly as it did back in 1967, Schneider began contacting air and space museums to find the shuttle a home. At 22 feet long and 8 feet tall, not many had the space to properly display the massive craft.
NASA has long acknowledged "Star Trek" and other science fiction for inspiring real-world progress, and found a home for the Galileo at its Houston space center. The shuttles of "Star Trek" predate NASA's first space shuttle, which the agency named "Enterprise" -- inspired by the series.
The Galileo was unveiled in Houston on Wednesday, and Star Trek fans came from hundreds of miles around.
"If someone told me as a little kid watching "Star Trek" hoping to be an astronaut that I would donate a spacecraft to NASA, I would have thought 'That can't happen,''' said Schneider. "I'm just thrilled."