Image: NASA’s space shuttle Enterprise
collectSPACE.com/Ben Cooper
NASA’s space shuttle Enterprise, the space agency’s original prototype for its winged orbiter fleet, opens on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City on July 19, 2012.
By
updated 7/19/2012 8:05:13 PM ET 2012-07-20T00:05:13

New York City, meet space shuttle Enterprise.

On Thursday, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on Manhattan's west side opened its new "Space Shuttle Pavilion" to the public, giving tourists and the Big Apple's residents a chance to "up-close and personal" with NASA's first prototype orbiter on board the flight deck of the converted aircraft carrier.

"As a pioneer of space exploration, an on-going American saga that the Intrepid herself played a critical role as a recovery vessel during the Mercury and Gemini programs, Enterprise embodies this museum's mission to honor our heroes, to educate the public and inspire our youth," said Bruce Mosler, co-chairman of the Intrepid.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden joined a dozen of his fellow shuttle-era astronauts — including three of the four pilots who flew Enterprise during its atmospheric approach and landing test program in 1977 — for Thursday's grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting that was staged just outside of the shuttle's pressurized pavilion on board the Intrepid. [ Video: Shuttle Enterprise Unveiled in NYC ]

  1. Space news from NBCNews.com
    1. KARE
      Teen's space mission fueled by social media

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-year-old from Minnesota to Kazakhstan this month for the liftoff of the International Space Station's next crew.

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

"I knew bringing a space shuttle to New York City was the right thing to do," Bolden told collectSPACE. "You know, it is the capital of the world when you really stop and think about it. Everybody comes to New York, so it is the right place to be." 

The museum is built into the retired U.S.S. Intrepid World War II aircraft carrier. Enterprise's exhibit sits at the front of Intrepid's flight deck, the shuttle's nose pointing toward the Hudson River.

"Placing a shuttle on top of a World War II aircraft carrier is not an easy feat, and I might be able to say we are now the only ones in the world who've made that happen," said Susan Marenoff-Zausner, the Intrepid's president.

Exhibiting Enterprise
Enterprise, which never flew in space, is presented in a darkened display with dramatic blue lighting, evoking the atmosphere of flight. Backlit images and flat panel video displays surround the winged orbiter, sharing its history, the history of NASA's 30-year space shuttle program, and the advancements in aviation and aerospace that led to its development. [ Gallery: Space Shuttle Enterprise on Exhibit ]

Visitors are welcome to walk up to, around and under the shuttle — a feature that is unique to the Intrepid's display as compared to the other exhibits for NASA's other retired orbiters. Enterprise's underbelly, which is lined with foam replicas of the space-worthy shuttles' heat shield tiles, is just 10 feet above the floor.

A raised platform at the front of the vehicle allows guests to come nose-to-nose with the Enterprise, as well as look into its crew cabin's windows and down the length of the 122 foot prototype spacecraft.

"Enterprise's arrival opens a new chapter in the story of the Intrepid museum," Ken Fisher, Intrepid's co-chairman, said. "This truly fulfills the 'space' portion of our museum's name and offers an unprecedented and unmatched tool to educate our visitors, especially our young ones."

Shuttle stars
The opening of the pavilion reunited astronauts Joe Engle, Richard Truly and Fred Haise, who flew Enterprise in pairs during its eight piloted test flights made between June and October 1977.

The space shuttle's fourth pilot, Gordon Fullerton, suffered a massive stroke in 2009 and was unable to travel to New York City. His wife, Marie, represented him at the opening ceremony.

"As a naval aviator, this is truly a great place to be," said Haise, speaking on behalf of his fellow Enterprise pilots. "One our compatriots, Dick Truly, this was his first ship."

Truly, who later went on to command two shuttle missions before becoming NASA Administrator, first flew F-8 single engine jets off the Intrepid during his first tour of duty with the Navy.

During the opening ceremony, Marenoff-Zausner, together with Mosler and Fisher, presented the Enterprise veterans with plaques commemorating that their names would be displayed alongside the shuttle in the form of star-shaped displays.

Also on hand for the ceremony were astronauts with ties to the Big Apple, including Karol "Bo" Bobko, who served as prime chase plane pilot for Enterprise's approach and landing test (ALT) program. Bobko was born in New York City.

NASA celebrated the pavilion's opening by bringing to the Intrepid more than 40 exhibits and activities as part of the Samsung Electronics-sponsored "SpaceFest," which the Intrepid is hosting through Sunday.

The journey continues
Thursday's public opening of the Space Shuttle Pavilion is only the first step in the Intrepid's plans for Enterprise.

"The wonderful pavilion and the story that it tells is not the final leg of this journey, that is still to come," Fisher said. "The home, as wonderful as it is, is only temporary."

"The entire Intrepid team is working hard to raise the funds and develop a plan for the permanent home for Enterprise, on the grounds of this museum but not on the flight deck," he added.

The permanent facility, which is expected to open in 2 to 3 years, will enable the Intrepid to share Enterprise's story in even greater detail and to welcome even more people.

"But we're extremely proud of the exhibit we're dedicating today that allows us to showcase Enterprise immediately," Fisher explained. "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but our earlier plan for Enterprise involved keeping her essentially in storage out at JFK Airport until a more permanent home could be built."

"I think having it here now and opening it today is a much better idea," Fisher said.

See shuttles.collectspace.com for continuing coverage of the delivery and display of NASA's retired space shuttles.

Follow collectSPACE on Facebook and Twitter @ collectSPACE and editor Robert Pearlman @ robertpearlman. Copyright 2012 collectSPACE.com. All rights reserved.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

loading photos...
  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Timeline: Space shuttle timeline

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments