While space shuttle Discovery prepares for its trip from Kennedy Space Center to the Smithsonian in April, plans are moving forward to ferry NASA’s first space shuttle, Enterprise, from the Smithsonian to New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum a week after Discovery’s arrival on April 23.
Originally named Constitution, Enterprise was later renamed after fans of the popular television series Star Trek successfully staged a write-in campaign urging the name change . Designated by NASA as OV-101, or Orbiter Vehicle-101, Enterprise has been the centerpiece at the National Air and Space Museum since 1985, after having successfully laid the foundation for the shuttle program to carry out active spaceflight operations with her sister orbiters.
Enterprise was never designed to fly to in space – she was a prototype test vehicle designed to demonstrate its ability to fly safely in the atmosphere and land like an airplane. But unlike a conventional aircraft, Enterprise had to land as a glider, with no engines or power to steer the vehicle through its descent. NASA’s vision for landing the shuttles was a one shot deal – if the landing was missed, there was no option for coming around to try for a second attempt.
Known as the ALT program (Approach and Landing Test program), OV-101 was put through a series of ground and flight tests, both manned and unmanned, in 1977. These tests not only proved the orbiter’s ability to glide through the atmosphere for landing, but also addressed various details regarding its performance when mated to NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and validated successful operation of all orbiter systems. Enterprise was also put through vertical ground vibration tests, where the orbiter was mated with its SRB’s and external fuel tank to form the shuttle stack – tests crucial to understanding how the vehicle would perform under different stresses while in its launch configuration.
Enterprise is scheduled to make one last flight on April 23, leaving the Smithsonian via Dulles International Airport atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and landing at JFK International Airport in New York City a few hours later.
“When the Enterprise touches down at JFK Airport, it will signify the first step of its final journey to educate and inspire millions of people around the world about the groundbreaking work of the NASA space program,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D – New York). “Once it lands next month, the Enterprise will immediately become an iconic and must-see destination in New York that will further contribute to our reputation as the greatest city in the world.”
Entrerprise will move yet again in June, where the orbiter will be transported by barge to its new home at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – passing the Statue of Liberty and World Trade Center en route to the Intrepid. Enterprise will be put on display this summer in a temporary location on Intrepid’s flight deck while her permanent exhibit facility is constructed.
“We are immensely excited about Enterprise’s landing at JFK, and are readying the Intrepid for her arrival,” said Susan Marenoff-Zausner, President of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. “Introducing Enterprise to New York is a landmark occasion and marks the beginning of Enterprise’s next mission, which is to inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and researchers and serve as a reminder that anything is possible.”
Intrepid sees nearly 1 million visitors annually, and with the city of New York hosting roughly 45 million more tourists each year it is expected that Enterprise will have no problem continuing to educate and inspire the public. In addition to the city’s annual visitors, 1 million students make up the public school system – not including students from the tri-state areas of NY, NJ, and CT. Enterprise will be in the backyard of the country’s largest potential pool of students, which is one of the main reasons NASA selected Intrepid as the orbiter’s new home.
“The arrival of Enterprise is a monumental occasion for all of us. Not only can we marvel at her greatness firsthand, but she will enrich the City of New York, its inhabitants and millions of visitors from around the world,” stated Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Co-Chairmen of the Board Charles de Gunzburg and Richard Santulli in a joint statement.
For more information regarding space shuttle Enterprise’s move to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum please visit www.intrepidmuseum.org/shuttle.
The following series of images were shot days ago, showcasing Enterprise in her final days on display at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. All images credit: Mark Usciak