If you’ve watched any of the Star Trek television adaptations or watched any of the films, you know the starship Enterprise remains in space. You might be wondering if the Enterprise ever leaves space. Can the Enterprise land on a planet?
The Enterprise can’t actually land on a planet. In order to do it, the crew would have to crash the starship into the planet because the Enterprise doesn’t have landing gear. Even though it would be able to land this way, there is no guarantee that the Enterprise would leave the ground again.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Enterprise can land on a planet as well as the other starships in Starfleet.
What Is the Enterprise?
The USS Enterprise is the name of the starship that is featured in almost every Star Trek series. This starship has been all over the galaxy and is home to many loved Star Trek characters. It was aboard the Enterprise that viewers first met Captain Kirk, and the franchise began.
There have been seven official starships to carry the name Enterprise and have made appearances on a Star Trek TV show or movie. There is also an alternate timeline that introduces the Enterprise-J, but it was only shown in a single episode from the future.
Below is a list of each Enterprise in Star Trek history, but it doesn’t include the versions from alternate timelines.
- Enterprise NX-01 – This was the very first Enterprise. It was the version of the ship from the TV show Star Trek: Enterprise, which followed the ship’s maiden voyage. The show was a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS).
- Enterprise NCC-1701 – This was the Enterprise that the world first met. It was commanded by Captain Kirk for the entirety of TOS.
- Enterprise NCC-1701-A – This starship was captained by Kirk in the films The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, and The Undiscovered Country.
- Enterprise NCC-1701-B – The Enterprise-B was only seen in the film Generations and wasn’t under the command of Captain Kirk. It wasn’t seen on screen again.
- Enterprise NCC-1701-C – This Enterprise came from the past and was only seen in one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) called Yesterday’s Enterprise.
- Enterprise NCC-1701-D – This is another Enterprise variant that is famous within the Star Trek franchise. It is the starship that was captained by Picard and seen in the entire TNG series.
- Enterprise NCC-1701-E – The Enterprise-E was the starship used in TNG films First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis. It was badly damaged but eventually saved after the battle at the end of the final TNG film.
Landing Capabilities of the Enterprise
The Enterprise variant starships weren’t designed to land on a planet. While many fans believe they have landing gear built in, this is something that still remains a mystery.
The Enterprise was meant to be built in orbit, travel through space, and remain in orbit of the planets it visits. Crewmembers were supposed to land on the planet using shuttle pods or beam down using the transporter beam. Landing on the surface with the Enterprise wasn’t an option.
Despite this, fans believe that the triangle shapes on the bottom of the saucer section of the Enterprise NCC-1701 are, in fact, landing gear. However, Kirk’s Enterprise was never meant to land on a planet.
In an episode of TOS titled “A Piece of the Action,” Kirk tells another character that the starship won’t land. He doesn’t explain why this is the case, but it’s believed that’s because the Enterprise doesn’t have any landing gear.
Low Atmospheric Orbit and Landing
The hull of the starship isn’t even meant to fully enter the atmosphere of a planet. There are several episodes in TOS when the Enterprise enters a very low orbit, but it doesn’t descend far enough into the atmosphere because it would damage the outside.
It isn’t until the development of the Intrepid-class starships that they built the ships with the idea of landing in mind. These ships were meant for longer lengths of time spent in space.
It’s known within the franchise that the saucer section of these starships can separate from the rest of the ship. It’s also believed possible that this saucer section of the Enterprise would contain landing gear, to be used for emergencies.
This isn’t ever confirmed as being correct by any of the show’s designers. Below is a video from the official Star Trek website that gives details on the procedures for starships and their landing capabilities:
The Time the Enterprise Did Land on a Planet
There was an instance when the Enterprise-D landed on a planet. This was an emergency crash landing that took place in the film Star Trek: Generations. The crew separated the saucer section from the rest of the ship because of a warp core breach that put the entire ship at risk.
You can watch the crash scene in the video below:
Starships in Star Trek That Can Land on a Planet
Even though the Enterprise isn’t capable of landing on a planet, there are some starships within the Star Trek universe that do have that capability. While some are within Starfleet, there are other alien ships that can land on planets as well.
Voyager, the Intrepid-class starship, was one of the first starships in Starfleet to land on the surface of a planet. It was the first starship to land on a planet in deep space. There are specific procedures in place that need to be followed in order to successfully land a starship.
The engineering team has to turn the warp core off and remove the plasma in the nacelles. The crew would switch the ship to atmospheric thrusters and put the landing gear online. Only once the entire ship was ready did the Voyager land on a planet.
Below you’ll find a video of an instance when the starship Voyager was landed on the surface of a planet:
The Klingon Bird-of-Prey warships were also capable of landing on a planet. These deadly machines were easily menacing, and trouble always seemed to follow when one of their ships popped up on the screen. Not only are they equipped with landing gear, but these starships can also enter into low atmospheres. The only thing they don’t seem to be capable of is landing on water or submerging in water.
There are examples of times when these ships were landed by Kirk and his crew in the films Star Trek: The Search for Spock, as well as The Voyage Home. Both times a Bird of Prey was landed on Vulcan and then on Earth.
Even though there were no canon references to the Defiant having landing gear, many fans believe it would have been capable of landing on the surface of a planet. It’s something no one will really know for sure.
The Enterprise may be built from fiction, but that doesn’t stop people from wondering what it could be capable of if it were real. However, there are some things that even fiction objects just can’t do. The Enterprise can’t land on a planet unless it crashes on it.
- Space: USS Enterprise Evolution in Photos: The Many Faces of Star Trek’s Favorite Starship
- Stack Exchange: How many different Enterprises were there?
- Fandom: Enterprise history
- Wikipedia: Enterprise (NX-01)
- Wikipedia: USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
- Wikipedia: USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A)
- Fandom: USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-B)
- Fandom: USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-C)
- Wikipedia: USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D)
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- Birth Movies Death: A Scientist Explains Why The Enterprise Can’t Go Underwater
- Star Trek: Enterprise
- Star Trek: Enterprise-D
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- YouTube: The First Time A Federation Starship Land On A Planet’s Surface
- YouTube: Landing Voyager
- Fandom: Planetary landing
- Reddit: Are any of the Enterprises capable of atmospheric flight?
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- The Trek BBS: Federation Ships that can land on planets
- Wikipedia: USS Defiant
- Wikipedia: USS Voyager (Star Trek)
- Wikipedia: Klingon starships
- Fandom: USS Voyager
- Wikipedia: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- Wikipedia: Star Trek: First Contact
- Fandom: USS Defiant (2370)
- Chakoteya: A Piece Of The Action transcript
- Fandom: Klingon Bird-of-Prey
- Wikipedia: Star Trek: The Original Series
- Wikipedia: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Wikipedia: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
- Wikipedia: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
- Wikipedia: Star Trek: Insurrection
- Wikipedia: Star Trek: Nemesis
- Wikipedia: Atmosphere
- Wikipedia: Star Trek Generations
- Wikipedia: Starfleet
- Wikipedia: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Wikipedia: Vulcan (Star Trek)