Space shuttle Enterprise lands in the Big Apple
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: April 27, 2012
The trailblazing prototype for the space shuttle fleet, the Enterprise, was hauled today atop a modified Boeing 747 to New York City where it will become a new exhibit aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a vintage aircraft carrier turned museum anchored in the Hudson River.
Nearly one million people visit the Intrepid each year, but museum officials expect the addition of Enterprise will boost the attendance to two million annually. It's that high-level of traffic and making the Enterprise visible to large numbers of people that helped make the popular museum a winner in the shuttle sweepstakes.
Enterprise, which performed early shuttle approach and landing tests in the 1970s, left the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington, D.C. last Thursday, vacating the display spot where it had been an exhibit since that facility opened in December 2003.
The most-flown reusable spaceship in history, shuttle Discovery, took Enterprise's Smithsonian role, freeing Enterprise to relocate to New York City as part of NASA's distribution of retired space shuttles.
The process began last Tuesday when Discovery, a shuttle with 39 spaceflights to its credit, departed her homeport at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop the modified 747 carrier aircraft for the trek up the eastern seaboard to Washington's Dulles International Airport.
Once there, technicians used a mobile crane system to offload Discovery for handover to the Smithsonian. Enterprise then got hoisted atop the same aircraft last Friday to depart Washington this morning bound for John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 9:39 a.m. EDT today.
After a dazzling low-altitude flyover of the New York skyline and landmarks, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, under the controls of pilot Bill Rieke, touched down at 11:22 a.m. EDT.
Once plucked off the jumbo jet, Enterprise will temporary storage at the airport before taking a two-day, 30-mile cruise starting June 4 aboard a barge, sailing past the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan on the route to reach the Intrepid museum complex located at Pier 86 on the Hudson River.
Another crane will do the lifting June 6 to hoist Enterprise onto the Intrepid.
Intrepid officials are designing a protective, climate-controlled covering to shield Enterprise from the elements while it sits aboard the historic military aircraft carrier, a ship originally commissioned in 1943 and served in World War II. Construction of that pavilion begins June 7 in preparation for opening the shuttle exhibit to the public in mid-July.
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.
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.
NASA formally signed over the ownership title of Enterprise to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Nov. 22.
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
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