NEW 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.
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.
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 Enterprise, now superseded at the Virginia museum by a space-flown orbiter, was assigned to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a retired aircraft carrier on the Hudson.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.