Voyager's ability to land on a planet's surface was used in a couple of episodes (The 37s, etc.). While I have no problem with the concept of doing so, I do wonder: what was the point of designing a starship with landing ability? They don't need to turn it completely off to do maintenance; in fact, they probably need to leave more of the ship active when on the surface than in space. (I doubt the Engineering section is heavy enough to counterbalance the massive overhang of the saucer section, so they'd need antigrav to keep from tipping over.)

Is there any good source stating (in- and/or out-of-universe) why Voyager can land? I'd also happy with good speculation, as I can't come up with any reasons other than it looks cool.

  • 3
    The MASSIVE imbalance of the over-hanging "saucer" is a good point to not here, too, since it would likely require running gravity plating/IDF/SDF at excessive capacities to keep it standing "upright".
    – eidylon
    Sep 2, 2011 at 20:36
  • 5
    Probably because CGI now meant the FX department could make it land on a reasonable budget (which was the reason the original Enterprise hadn't been designed to). Plus it looks cool. Nov 18, 2011 at 17:17
  • 14
    The saucer section is indeed massive, but given that it's mostly composed of living spaces, I'd imagine it's quite a bit lighter than the secondary hull which contains the nacelles and engineering section. This bears much resemblance to certain types of aircraft design where the landing gear and engine are in the front half of the craft and more than half the length of the craft hang freely without any support due to their relative lightness.
    – Chad Levy
    Dec 3, 2011 at 21:58
  • 4
    Don't forget that the Enterprise-D was able to land on Veridian III. Oct 1, 2018 at 16:38
  • 2
    Too true. The more important question is then: "How the heck does Voyager take off?"
    – T.J.L.
    Sep 25, 2019 at 12:45

7 Answers 7


Quoted from Memory Alpha

This ability was demonstrated in VOY: "The 37's". During an interview I once saw about the making of Voyager, I'm not sure exactly where anymore, they (several staff members) spoke about how they wanted to have the ship consistently land on planet's surfaces, but opted for use of the transporters due to the visual effects techniques and budget costs. They then stated that, when the show was actually in production and airing, it would be occasionally feasible due to an improved budget and increase visual effects techniques. During that discussion, one person had stated that this was the first ship in Star Trek history capable of doing this. So you could say the producers can confirm this ability.--Gravydude 01:55, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

  • 3
    There are at least a couple references in the literary works where the saucer section detached from the main hull was demonstrated to land on the planet and take off again. But of course that would not be the entire ship landing.
    – BBlake
    Aug 28, 2011 at 13:08
  • 3
    @Arjang So it's essentially to look cool. There was no effort put into a reason, however plausible?
    – Cajunluke
    Aug 28, 2011 at 15:07
  • 15
    @Cajon: Exactly. Welcome to Voyager.
    – Jeff
    Aug 28, 2011 at 16:43
  • 2
    @Jeff That's probably why Voyager is my favorite Trek series, although DS9 is a close second.
    – Cajunluke
    Aug 29, 2011 at 15:03
  • 5
    I was under the impression from some half remembered source was that the role of the Intrepid class ship like Voyager were designed as science ships... it could be that they intended the ship to land for extended periods to make it easier to do surface examinations. Of course this is only an in-universe attempt at an explanation. Of course most Starfleet ships were Science Ships of one sort or another, so take this comment with a grain of sand. And yes, it is easier to scan a planet from orbit, but hey, it's Voyager.
    – erdiede
    Aug 31, 2011 at 1:04

The the final season episode Nightingale:

USS Voyager sets down on an uninhabited planet to begin maintenance to the warp drive that B'Elanna Torres tells Captain Janeway they desperately need.

enter image description here

Voyager is a deep-space exploration vessel, so it stands to reason that it had to be capable of performing extensive maintenance and repairs without the aide of dry dock.

Extensive periodic maintenance seems to be a necessary thing for Star fleet vessels. In the Next Generation episode Starship Mine, the Enterprise goes through a Baryon sweep to remove particulates that accumulate on ships that make extensive use of their warp drives. In order to complete this sweep, the Enterprise had to go into dry dock and the crew evacuate.

enter image description here

Source: Memory Alpha

For ships too far away from the necessary infrastructure capable of performing these maintenance tasks, where major systems had to be taken offline, atmospheric operation would be necessary.

  • 4
    Totally OT but, wouldn't that technically be a wet dock? In reference to sea vessels, a dry dock is a gated basin that is flooded only to float boats in/out, but is otherwise drained when the ship is being built or worked on. It's a "dry" dock because the ship is out of water--its normal environment--and typically suspended on blocks. So for starships, shouldn't a drydock be a dock where the ship can be removed from the vacuum of space? Dec 8, 2011 at 7:56
  • 7
    According to Memory Alpha, drydock is synonymous with spacedock, which is used in a method similar to naval drydocks, where a drydock is a large structure that encompasses a starship, sometimes within an enclosure. "Wet docks" would be, I guess, where the vessel is moored, such as in the case of docking with DS9 or some other space station. en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Spacedock
    – Chad Levy
    Dec 8, 2011 at 8:09
  • 1
    Ah, that analogy makes sense then in that context. I was thinking a starship drydock would be protecting the ship from the vacuum of space like a regular drydock protects its ship from water pressure. But being housed like that versus being moored would be a more logical analog. Dec 8, 2011 at 8:31
  • 1
    Voyager is a deep-space exploration vessel... I always thought/had in mind that the Intrepid was classified as "scouting vessel", not deep-space-exploration. I even think that was stated somewhere in the series. Though, Memory-Alpha and other sources state it is that way, so my memories might be playing a trick on me.
    – Bobby
    Jul 29, 2012 at 20:20
  • 2
    @Bobby: It's possible that officially the Intrepid is technically classified as a "deep-space exploration vessel", but it's used as a scout ship in a combat role during times of war. This makes sense since the two roles are analogous. Scout vessels are designed for deep solo penetrations of enemy lines. So their main requirements are speed, range/stamina, and recon abilities. Voyager has the speed to evade enemies, the facilities to support its crew on long missions without resupply, and an array of state-of-the-art sensors for gathering intel. It's a trifecta. Oct 17, 2012 at 11:25

Even though you might need anti-grav to keep the ship upright (though it really depends on the weight distribution of the ship, as not all parts of the ship are going to weigh the same), you wouldn't need to keep life-support or gravity generators on or worry about maintaining orbit. You also don't need to spacewalk or wear bulky spacesuits to do external repairs.

Not having to contend with the vacuum of space, the temperature extremes, the stellar radiation (especially during solar flares/coronal mass ejections), and the threat of micrometeoroids, etc. would be enough reason to build/repair/upgrade/refit a ship on the ground.

And sometimes you just need to land on the planet surface:

  • When your ship is caught in the gravity of a planet and cannot maintain orbit
  • When you need to hide from an enemy using the planet surface's geological features or weather anomalies
  • When you need to repair or refit the ship when a spacedock is unavailable
  • When shuttles and transporters are unavailable or too risky
  • When it's faster to load/unload personnel and/or equipment directly rather than via transporter or shuttle
  • When a surface mission requires the ship's full resources and/or crew
  • 3
    +1 for repair and refit. In The Haunting of Deck Twelve, Janeway, responding to numerous malfunctions, whispers to Voyager that she'll find an M-class planet to set down on to do a full systems overhaul.
    – Chad Levy
    Dec 3, 2011 at 21:36
  • 3
    Further, in the episode Nightingale, Voyager does, in fact, set down on a planet to perform a major maintenance overhaul. In the first scene Voyager is seen on the planet with maintenance crews performing physical work on the nacelles and hull. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightingale_(Star_Trek:_Voyager)
    – Chad Levy
    Dec 4, 2011 at 1:04
  • 2
    I'm not sure I agree with repair, but I definitely agree with refit. If I remember right, every time they land they have to kick their structural integrity to full power and have their shields at a high power setting. If the ship has sustained enough damage to justify landing for repairs, it would already be so badly damaged as to make landing incredibly dangerous. In terms of refit, it absolutely makes sense, so long as they don't need much power to keep the ship "balanced."
    – erdiede
    Dec 4, 2011 at 17:53

Two words: Mass evacuation. In the two-parter Basics, the Kazon-Nistrim uses this unique ability to demean and dishearten the crew before leaving them on the surface of an apparently desolate planet.

  • The Federation had a lot of technologies unknown to the Kazon; wasn't transporters on that list? As such, they would have been unfamiliar with their use, especially for something like a forced evacuation. Was that not the reason for the landing? Assuming the necessary ship's systems are in good working order, why would transporters not be used for evacuation, except if those in charge aren't familiar with their use?
    – Anthony X
    Oct 1, 2018 at 1:19
  • +1 - even the Kazon aside, I have vague memories of occasions where the Enterprise (e.g. on rescue missions) encountered the problem of being limited in the number of people they could teleport at a time.
    – komodosp
    Sep 25, 2019 at 13:44

Most of this is speculation based on observation and what I've read about the Intrepid-class. These ships were designed to provide an advanced long range exploration platform. That in itself says "we are on our own", thus being able to have the diversity not too rely on sensors and away teams for in-depth exploration might make grounding a must.

Also, if we follow on from my initial point that the Intrepid-class was conceived for long range work, it is much easier and safer to replace a warp coil in shirt sleeves than in environmental suits in space, regardless of how comfortable.

Furthermore, it might be useful for a badly damaged ship to ground to make long term repairs, or if necessary, to allow a crew to set up a survival colony on an M-class planet, using the ships useful surviving components to assist in providing for the survival, security, and comfort of the crew.

That being said, the fact that this class of ships did not have the capacity to separate the primary hull from the secondary hull, as previous classes of Starfleet ships had. The Constitution-class was capable of this but not rejoining itself. This extraordinary step might have been necessary to save the crew from a warp core breach, or other reason, thus grounding would be very useful.

  • You start off on the right track but seem to veer off to a discussion of primary and secondary hulls. Can I suggest you edit your question, so that it remains on topic and remove most of the irrelevant stuff?
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 22, 2018 at 6:29

I would add to the other answers that the Federation / Starfleet puts value on pushing boundaries and advancement, exploring not only the frontiers of outer space but also their own abilities. They are in a post-scarcity world, so not everything needs a cost-benefit analysis. Research and development can be done for its own sake because scientists love to science, and because they can afford it.

In other words, it's quite plausible in the Star Trek world that someone saw the limitation that Starfleet ships could not land, decided they'd like the challenge of overcoming that limitation, put together a team of like-minded engineers and figured it out.


Speculative, Voyager landing was done mainly for dramatic purposes story permitting. However as a long range science vessel, Intrepid class starships being able to land has many potential benefits...

  • Serve as a long term laboratory that can land, conduct month/year long scientific/exploratory missions then take off and resume course.
  • Carry out federation defense and military policy. One by being able to ferry soldiers in environments where they cant transport such as transporter scramblers, dampening fields, radiogenic environments; converting crew and guest quarters into multiple bunk garrisons means an Intrepid can carry 300-500 troops. And two by acting as a mobile command base on a planetary surface with far more resources and firepower than a typical base or runabout.
  • Mobile humanitarian aid station and hospital ship. In essence a M.A.S.H. for planetwide humanitarian disaster or medical crisis.
  • Energy conservation, being a sealed environment, landing on a habitable surface can save energy by not having to devote power to life support especially when damaged or in "Grey Mode". The ship in essence can "Open up it's doors" to fresh air.
  • Carry out critical maintenance on a class M planet without the need of a starbase or if such facilities are not presently available.
  • The ship having landed can act as a prelude or firstwave colonization means by acting as the primary habitat until housing and infrastructure facilities are built.
  • Act as an "open port" for Federation diplomatic missions.
  • 1 doesn't require landing in Star Trek. 2 is marginally plausible, though the troop capacity is questionable. 3 would be better handled by transporters from orbit, because being on the surface would make a large portion of the world less accessible. 4 would still require life support active to circulate air around the ship. 5 they actually did in the show, though I'm not sure how moving around components that big in a gravity well is easier. 6 if they can beam whole shuttles (which they do), they can beam prefab structures. 7 has no special benefit from being landed.
    – T.J.L.
    Sep 25, 2019 at 12:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.