NEW YORK, April 27, 2012
— Space shuttle Enterprise took to the air Friday morning (April 27) for the first time in more than a quarter century, but the two hour flight is also to be its last. Its final destination: the Big Apple.
Enterprise, the original prototype for NASA's winged space shuttles, departed Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport at 9:39 a.m. EDT (1339 GMT) mounted on top of the space agency's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
The air- and spacecraft duo were expected to land at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport by 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT) after flying over the New York City metro area and some of its famous landmarks.
The flight begins Enterprise's journey to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a converted World War II aircraft carrier, docked at Pier 86 in Manhattan.
The ferry flight marks the second time in as many weeks that NASA has flown one of its retired space shuttles to begin a new mission as a museum display. Last week, the same carrier plane ferried shuttle Discovery, NASA's fleet leader, from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to Washington where it replaced Enterprise on exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.
Enterprise had been on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center since December 2003. It arrived in Washington 18 years earlier on Nov. 18, 1985, completing what was thought by many to be its final landing. While the shuttle never flew in space, it performed vital approach and landing tests in the late 1970s.
Space shuttle Enterprise, atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, is seen as it takes off for New York. (NASA / Scott Andrews)
On Friday's ferry flight, Enterprise is expected to fly by the Intrepid and the Statue of Liberty, among other New York City landmarks, on its way to the airport. Accompanying the 747 and shuttle in flight were NASA's C-9 Pathfinder plane and two T-38 training jets assigned to capture aerial imagery of the flyover.
The Intrepid invited 1,500 guests to JFK to witness the landing at JFK and welcome the Enterprise to New York. The public was invited to gather at the riverside museum to witness the flyover.
After Enterprise is removed from the top of the NASA 747 carrier plane in a few weeks, it will be barged around the city to the Intrepid by way of the Hudson River in June.
Once positioned alongside the Intrepid, Enterprise will be craned onto the museums's flight deck and covered by a climate-controlled temporary structure for public display.
This is not Enterprise's first time flying to New York City. Although it did not land, the prototype orbiter passed over the Big Apple on its way back from the Paris Air Show on June 10, 1983.
Visit shuttles.collectspace.com for continuing coverage of the delivery and display of NASA's retired space shuttles.