Shuttle Enterprise's future home now visualized
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: December 14, 2011
With the ownership title now in hand, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum has unveiled artwork depicting how the space shuttle Enterprise will be displayed within a protective bubble on the aircraft carrier's flight deck starting next summer.
"Let there be no bones about it, the Intrepid now officially owns a space shuttle. And that's going to stay for a very long time to come," Sen. Charles Schumer said in Sunday's title-signing ceremony.
"Space shuttle Enterprise played a key role in advancing technology for the benefit of humanity and she will continue in her education and inspiration mission here on the Intrepid," said Lori Garver, NASA deputy administrator.
NASA's prototype orbiter that performed landing tests in the 1970s will be moved to New York City in April, leaving the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington, D.C., where it had been an exhibit since that facility opened in December 2003.
The relocation is part of NASA's delivery of the space shuttles to the winning museums across the country that sought an orbiter after the program's retirement earlier this year.
Once there, technicians will use a mobile crane system to offload Discovery for handover to the Smithsonian. Enterprise then gets hoisted atop the same aircraft to depart Washington and head for John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, according to a NASA spokesman.
Enterprise will enter temporary storage at the airport before taking a summertime cruise aboard a barge to reach the Intrepid museum complex located at Pier 86 on the Hudson River.
Intrepid officials are designing a protective covering to shield Enterprise from the elements while it sits aboard the historic military aircraft carrier.
Discovery is headed inside the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center where Enterprise had been parked. National Air and Space Museum took dibs on the most-flown of the surviving orbiters, having orbited the planet 5,830 times and traveled 148 million miles.
Enterprise was used in 1977 for approach and landing test flights at Edwards Air Force Base in California, making five free-flights with two alternating crews to demonstrate a shuttle's ability to perform a powerless touchdown on a runway.
The craft was utilized in space shuttle vehicle vibration tests with an attached external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and for launch pad fit checks at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
In 1985, NASA transferred Enterprise to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. The orbiter was parked in a storage hangar at Dulles International Airport until late 2003 when the museum's new annex was completed.
Also in 2003, several of Enterprise's wing-leading edge panels were removed while engineers conducted foam impact testing during the Columbia accident investigation.
Enterprise, built in 1976 as the first shuttle, was only a test vehicle. It was never outfitted to actually fly in space.
"The U.S.S. Intrepid had a rich history with NASA's mission, and Enterprise -- the pathfinder for the space shuttle program -- belongs in this historic setting. Enterprise, along with the rest of our shuttle fleet, is a national treasure and it will help inspire the next generation of explorers as we begin our next chapter of space exploration," said NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden.
The other two orbiters -- Atlantis and Endeavour -- are slated for display at the Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Complex and the California Science Center in Los Angeles, respectively.
Venture back in history to relive Enterprise's moments