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NASA signs over shuttle Enterprise to New York City's Intrepid museum

Concept for the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum's proposed exhibition center, which is to feature space shuttle Enterprise.
November 23, 2011

— NASA's space shuttle Enterprise will land next summer on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. The World War II aircraft-carrier-turned-museum took over ownership of the prototype winged orbiter on Tuesday (Nov. 22) in preparation for Enterprise's delivery in 2012.

NASA's Lynn Cline, the deputy associate administrator for human exploration and operations, turned over the title for Enterprise to Intrepid president Susan Marenoff-Zausner. The contract signing was publicly announced only after it was done, unlike the high-profile title-signing ceremony that was held last month to transfer shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

"NASA is proud to transfer the title of space shuttle Enterprise to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a written statement released by the museum. "The USS Intrepid had a rich history with NASA's mission, and Enterprise — the pathfinder for the space shuttle program — belongs in this historic setting."

"Enterprise, along with the rest of our shuttle fleet, is a national treasure," Bolden said, "and it will help inspire the next generation of explorers as we begin our next chapter of space exploration."

Enterprise, which didn't fly in space but instead performed atmospheric approach and landing tests in the late 1970s, is one of four retired shuttle orbiters NASA is providing to museums for public display. In addition to Endeavour, the space agency gave Atlantis to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida and donated Discovery to the Smithsonian Institution.

The atmospheric test orbiter Enterprise will be replaced by the shuttle Discovery inside the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center.

NASA originally transferred Enterprise to the Smithsonian in 1985 and the Washington, DC institution owned the test orbiter until earlier this year. Today, it continues to house Enterprise at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia.

Enterprise will depart for New York after Discovery arrives at the Udvar-Hazy Center to take its place, an event that's targeted for April 2012. NASA will ferry Enterprise on top of its modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft to Manhattan, where it will land and be offloaded by crane at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport.

Carrier landing

The Intrepid originally planned to leave Enterprise at the airport inside a temporary, climate-controlled tent within a hangar while it readied a more permanent display home for the shuttle.

Initial plans called for a glass hangar to be constructed on Manhattan's Pier 86, next to where the aircraft carrier is moored along the Hudson River. Then in late September, the Intrepid announced it had instead decided to construct a much larger museum and educational center, although the land where it wants to build — an empty lot across the street from the museum — is state property that needs to be rezoned if it is to be Enterprise's new home.

The change in display plans caused some politicians and members of the public from locations that did not receive an orbiter to cry foul. Congressional representatives and public petitions called for Enterprise to be reassigned to other museums in cities like Seattle, Houston and Dayton, Ohio.

The Intrepid plans to park Enterprise on its flight deck, under a 'protective covering,' until its more permanent display is ready.

Now the orbiter's rightful owner, Intrepid announced that a few months after touching down in New York, Enterprise will be loaded onto a barge and ferried around the city to the museum. There it will be hoisted onto the flight deck and displayed under a "protective covering" until the new exhibition hall is ready.

It was not yet clear how many, if any, of the almost two dozen aircraft currently displayed on Intrepid's flight deck would need to be moved.

The public will be able to view Enterprise on the Intrepid beginning in summer 2012.

Good for New York, good for New Yorkers

NASA awarded Enterprise and the other three orbiters to museums based upon a number of criteria, including their accessibility to domestic and international visitors, and their historical relevance to the space program. Before becoming a museum, the USS Intrepid led in the ocean recovery of two early manned missions: Scott Carpenter's 1962 Mercury mission and the two-man Gemini 3 flight in 1965.

NASA also favored museums that would use the shuttles to educate the public, and in particular children.

"We are excited that [Enterprise's] new home will be here at the Intrepid in New York City," Marenoff-Zausner said. "It will be a destination for the millions of tourists who visit our great city and region."

"The Enterprise not only supports our mission to honor our heroes, educate the public and inspire our youth, but will offer a thrilling platform for STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] education, innovation and forward thinking," she said.

Concept for the Intrepid's new exhibition for shuttle Enterprise, which museum officials say they will need $85 million to build.

The Intrepid needs to cover NASA's cost flying Enterprise from Virginia to New York, reported to be $8.3 million, in addition to whatever costs are associated with the barge around the city. The Intrepid is also looking to raise $85 million to build the new museum and educational center planned to permanently house Enterprise.

Those costs however will deliver a much larger return to the city, according to Intrepid officials.

"Enterprise's new home will create a significant amount of new temporary and permanent jobs, and generate millions in economic impact annually for the local economy," said Richard Santulli, co-chairman of the Intrepid. "Enterprise brings a magnificent and historical artifact to New York City for millions to enjoy."

"We thank all of those who have supported and continue to support the mission of having Enterprise in New York City and at the museum," Intrepid's other co-chair Charles de Gunzburg said. "This historic addition to the Intrepid museum complex will be a great contributor to the region and the city and be a catalyst for further redevelopment in the neighborhood."

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