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Space Shuttle Enterprise Graces New York City with a Flyby

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Shuttle Enterprise NYC flyoverNEW YORK—Friday morning got off to an unusually exciting start here at Scientific American, as the prototype space shuttle Enterprise was flown up the Hudson River, and just past our office building at the intersection of Canal and Varick streets, en route to a landing at John F. Kennedy airport. Dozens of staffers from Scientific American and from our parent company Nature Publishing Group lined the west-facing windows of our Soho offices to catch a glimpse of the shuttle, and we were rewarded with a clear, sunlit view of Enterprise atop its 747 carrier aircraft around 10:35 A.M. (below right).

Space Shuttle Enterprise New York City

© John Matson/Scientific American

Enterprise, whose official NASA designation is OV-101, never went to space. It was used in a series of early suborbital flight tests in the 1970s to check the shuttles’ handling in the atmosphere and to test their landing systems. Since 1985, Enterprise has been property of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. After nearly two decades in storage, the prototype shuttle went on display in 2004 at the museum’s newly opened Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

Shuttle Enterprise over WTC and Statue of Liberty

Credit: NASA

But last year, when NASA decided where to send its three remaining space shuttles Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis for public display after retirement, the Smithsonian was awarded the well-used Discovery orbiter. Enterprise, now superseded at the Virginia museum by a space-flown orbiter, was assigned to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a retired aircraft carrier on the Hudson. The shuttle will make the trip from JFK to the Intrepid by barge in June.

Credit for top photo of Enterprise over Manhattan: © Michael Battaglia/Scientific American

About the Author: John Matson is an associate editor at Scientific American focusing on space, physics and mathematics. Follow on Twitter @jmtsn.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. patrickh74 2:16 pm 04/27/2012

    Pathetic! Our current shuttle fleet was designed in the late 70′s. This “retirement party” for the space shuttles would only be a happy occasion if we had something to replace them. NASA should be ashamed. Every astronaught who died on early space missions, to promote American space travel, is most likely turning over in their respective graves. Way to fail, current Congress and president!! Not the proudest moment to be an American citizen, thats for sure.

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  2. 2. geojellyroll 6:33 pm 04/27/2012

    At least this last mission didn’t cost the price of an average Shuttle mission …1.6 Billion dollars.

    Manned space flight is a big sucking machine robbing space science of dollars better spent doing actual science.

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  3. 3. cm1701 4:51 pm 04/29/2012


    I assume the ’74 indicates birthday- so I’m going with the fact that you’re young.

    There have been programs after programs at NASA for shuttle modifications big and small, and programs replacement vehicles big and small since the 80′s.

    It’s not just THIS Congress and This President. NASA has been off it’s game since ’68 really. With no Mars mission possible due to Vietnam and waning interest in Space among the general public – various administrations did what they could to keep the lights on at the NASA centers and at the Big Boy Contractors: Boeing, Lockheed, Martin, Douglas, Grumman, etc.

    For all that we have paper study after paper study, suttle C, x-30 and half built prototypes x-33/x-34 x-38 return vehicle, Constellation, and launch pads to nowhere – SLC-6 at Vandenberg, and the X-33 launch site at Edwards.

    There are more unknown monies spent on programs in support of Air Force initiatives that also went nowhere.

    Shuttle was born of Compromise. Station was born of Compromise. What we have now is a reconstituted constellation/Direct hybrid vehicle (SPace Launch System)- which should serve to keep the big Contractor beast fed-and quiet enough to get out of the way of the actual achievers.

    So we are, despite ourselves doing great things in Space.
    Never mind the Space tourism coming soon.

    Space X heads to the ISS very soon for a fraction of the price of a NASA launch. Heck- they are even less expensive than a Chinese launch. Go US industry!

    The folks behind the coming Strato Launch also look to be achievers, as are the people behind Planetary Resources.

    Sorry that you are not proud to be an American these days. My only disappointment about America is that so many people post, with knowing history, or caring about context.

    We’ll be fine in Space. Government was first, as a pathfinder, Private sector follows. Keep in mind, AirMail was delivered by the Private Sector under contract to the US. Passenger service followed.

    Government (ARPA) created Internet- Europeans (Cern) created www. Private Sector made ‘em huge.

    That’s how things are supposed to work.

    Fret not. Research more. Look around man, heck- we’re living in the future. A Guy owns a Rocket Company and and Electric Car Company… totally Tom Swift! How cool is that?

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