Arik Hesseldahl

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Space Shuttle Enterprise Arrives in New York

Today was an exciting day here in New York, as NASA flew the Space Shuttle Enterprise over the city on its way to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. I braved a very windy morning on the roof of my Upper West Side apartment to see it for myself. I thought I’d share a few of the pictures.

The flight just landed at JFK Airport a few minutes ago; the Enterprise will spend a few months there before being floated on a barge to the Intrepid, where it will become part of a permanent display.

Built in 1976, the Enterprise never flew in orbit as the other shuttles did. It was the prototype for the later shuttles — Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor — which did orbit the Earth a combined total of 21,158 times on 135 missions beginning in 1981 and ending last July.

The Enterprise was used instead for approach and landing tests. Hitched to a converted 747 technically known as a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft or SCA — exactly as it was today — it would detach using explosive bolts; and then, under control of an astronaut in training, it would land unpowered, like a glider. NASA conducted five such tests. Too bad it wasn’t possible to allow it to land freely in that manner at JFK today. That would have been pretty cool.

It’s also cool how it got its name. Yes, it really is named for the spaceship in “Star Trek.” After fans of the show lobbied President Gerald Ford with a determined letter-writing campaign, he made it so, saying he was “partial to the name.”

Today, the SCA carrying the Enterprise flew up the along the Hudson River, north to the Tappan Zee Bridge, where it circled a few times, and then back down the Hudson. Here it is heading south, minutes before it circled the Statue of Liberty:

(Images by Arik Hesseldahl/AllThingsD)

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