Update, Oct. 31:
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum issued the following statement late on Oct. 30:
October 30, 2012
The rise in the Hudson River due to Hurricane Sandy caused flooding and damage to Pier 86. The pier was designed to withstand the 100 year storm. However, the unprecented levels of water flooded the main electrical transformers and both of our backup generators.
As a result, power issues caused the pavilion to deflate. The shuttle sustained only minor damage.
We currently are assessing the situation. The safety of our employees is most important, and when our teams are able to safely work on site, we will begin to rebuild the areas of our complex that have been affected.
We are eager to reopen our doors to the public, but as of now, the Museum will be closed until further notice.
— Space shuttle Enterprise, NASA's original prototype orbiter, is sitting exposed and appears to have been partially damaged by Hurricane Sandy after the severe storm passed over New York City on Monday night (Oct. 29).
On display on board the flight deck
of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a converted aircraft carrier, since July, Enterprise had been protected from the elements inside a pressurized pavilion. Based on photos posted online, the inflatable structure appears to have first deflated and then torn by the winds of the now post-tropical storm cyclone.
Photos show the 180-foot-long (55 meters) by 60-foot-high (18 meters) pavilion's fabric exterior now lies draped over Enterprise, though much of the shuttle's nose section and part of its payload bay is uncovered. The orbiter's vertical stabilizer, or tail, is protruding out the top, where it looks like part of the spacecraft may have been torn away.
Space shuttle Enterprise's pressurized pavilion was deflated and torn as superstorm Sandy passed over NYC. (Denise Chow)
"We certainly wish our best to everyone affected by the storm. It was a very big storm that affected many people," NASA spokesman Mike Curie told collectSPACE. "We are aware that Enterprise appears to be uncovered on the deck of the Intrepid, but we're sure that our friends at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum will do their best to take care of Enterprise and get it back up to shipshape as soon as possible."
Intrepid officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The "superstorm" Sandy flooded Pier 86 on the west side of Manhattan, where the Intrepid is anchored, submerging part of the museum's main entrance under water. Similar damage was seen throughout the city and region, leaving buildings destroyed, millions of people without power and at least 30 dead.
Enterprise was delivered to the Intrepid in June after being transferred from its previous home of eight years at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia. In its place, space shuttle Discovery
is now at the Udvar-Hazy Center, having arrived in April after NASA retired its orbiter fleet in 2011.
Discovery was also in Sandy's path, and the Smithsonian remains closed due to the storm. However, no damage to that shuttle was reported, nor was any damage evident on webcam footage of the vehicle.
Space shuttle Enterprise's vertical stabilizer, or tail, appears to have been damaged by superstorm Sandy. (Heath Hurwitz)
Enterprise, built in the 1970s, never made it to space, but was used instead as a prototype to test the space shuttle design during approach-and-landing glide tests.
Since arriving at the Intrepid, Enterprise has been housed
in its climate-controlled inflated pavilion. This shelter was never meant to be permanent, however. Ultimately, the Intrepid has said it plans to build a larger, separate facility to showcase the shuttle and enhance the museum's other space exhibits and educational displays.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Sandy was centered about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east-northeast of Pittsburgh, moving westward and weakening over Pennsylvania, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami. The storm's maximum sustained winds were 45 mph (72 kph), down from 90 mph (150 kph) on Monday when it was a Category 1 hurricane.
See shuttles.collectspace.com for continuing coverage of the delivery and display of NASA's retired space shuttles.