HOUSTON — When NASA’s Space Shuttle Enterprise goes on display this week at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, visitors will be able to view the original prototype orbiter from all angles, including from above and below.
Enterprise, which flew atmospheric approach and landing tests in the late 1970s to prove the pathway home for its sister space-worthy shuttles, will make its debut inside the Intrepid’s new Space Shuttle Pavilion July 19. The climate-controlled, pressurized fabric shelter was inflated over Enterprise on June 21, two weeks after the shuttle was delivered to the converted World War II aircraft carrier. The pavilion sits on the rear of the Intrepid’s flight deck.
Inside the pavilion, museum-goers will discover Enterprise displayed 3 meters above the deck floor, allowing visitors to walk directly underneath the shuttle. Or, if they prefer, guests can ascend to a viewing platform positioned near Enterprise’s nose to get an up-close overhead look at the iconic spacecraft.
Museum officials say dramatic lighting and a series of backlit images and video stations will highlight Enterprise inside its display as “a vehicle that continues to enable a greater understanding of science and technology.”
“The exhibition brings to life the remarkable story of the Enterprise as the original prototype space shuttle orbiter in relation to NASA’s historic role in experimental aircraft throughout the twentieth-century,” Intrepid officials said in a press release. “The experience will inspire visitors of all ages, offering an unforgettable look at the past, present and future of space missions.”
To celebrate the grand opening of Enterprise’s exhibit, the Intrepid is hosting a four-day “Spacefest,” sponsored by Samsung, that will offer more than 40 interactive displays, activities and exhibitions.
The festival kicks off July 18, the night before the Space Shuttle Pavilion opens to the public, with a free concert on Intrepid’s flight deck. The music will feature cutting-edge eclectic and curatorial concerts and DJ sets, and will be based on the electronic dance music and indie rock global scenes.
The next day, the Intrepid will formally open Enterprise’s pavilion during an 11 a.m. EDT ribbon cutting. A group of shuttle astronauts will be on hand, including several native New Yorkers, such as Ellen Baker, Mario Runco, Charles Camarda and Mike Massimino.
The astronauts will then be on hand through July 22 for meet-and-greet opportunities as the public tours the new shuttle pavilion and the exhibits that are part of Spacefest. Among the NASA-loaned displays will be full-size models of Mars rovers Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, the latter set to land on the red planet in August.
The Intrepid is the latest and — by all plans — last home for Enterprise, which previously was exhibited at the 1983 Paris Air Show in France, the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans, and most recently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. Enterprise’s relocation to New York City was part of NASA’s selection of museums for the permanent public display of its retired space shuttle fleet.
Robert Z. Pearlman is editor of collectSPACE.com.