A farewell to Star Trek's real life Shuttle Enterprise

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  • Dr. James D. Fletcher, NASA Administrator, DeForest Kelley (Dr. "Bones" McCoy), George Takei (Mr. Sulu), James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (the indefatigable Mr. Spock), Gene Rodenberry (The Great Bird of the Galaxy), and Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Checkov). Dr. James D. Fletcher, NASA Administrator, DeForest Kelley (Dr. "Bones" McCoy), George Takei (Mr. Sulu), James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (the indefatigable Mr. Spock), Gene Rodenberry (The Great Bird of the Galaxy), and Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Checkov). Photo by: NASA
  • Members of the television series, Star Trek, during the dedication ceremony of Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise. Members of the television series, Star Trek, during the dedication ceremony of Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise. Photo by: AP
  • Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise and test flight crew members Commander Fred W. Haise, Jr., Pilot C. Gordon Fullerton, Commander Joe H. Engle, and Pilot Richard H. Truly. Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise and test flight crew members Commander Fred W. Haise, Jr., Pilot C. Gordon Fullerton, Commander Joe H. Engle, and Pilot Richard H. Truly. Photo by: NASA
  • The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise rides smoothly atop NASA's first Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), NASA 905. The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise rides smoothly atop NASA's first Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), NASA 905. Photo by: NASA
  • The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free of NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) during one of five free flights carried out at the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, California. The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free of NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) during one of five free flights carried out at the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, California. Photo by: NASA
  • The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free during one of five free flights carried out at the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, California. The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free during one of five free flights carried out at the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, California. Photo by: NASA
  • The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free during one of five free flights carried out at the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, California. The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free during one of five free flights carried out at the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, California. Photo by: NASA
  • Commander Fred W. Haise, Jr. and Pilot C. Gordon Fullerton on the flight deck of Shuttle Enterprise prior to a test flight. Commander Fred W. Haise, Jr. and Pilot C. Gordon Fullerton on the flight deck of Shuttle Enterprise prior to a test flight. Photo by: NASA
  • Commander Joe H. Engle and Pilot Richard H. Truly in the cockpit of Shuttle Enterprise prior to takeoff. Commander Joe H. Engle and Pilot Richard H. Truly in the cockpit of Shuttle Enterprise prior to takeoff. Photo by: NASA
  • The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free of NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) during one of five free flights carried out at the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, California. The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free of NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) during one of five free flights carried out at the Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, California. Photo by: NASA
  • The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free after being released from NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) to begin a powerless glide flight back to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise flies free after being released from NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) to begin a powerless glide flight back to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. Photo by: NASA
  • Piloted by astronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton, the prototype space shuttle enterprise settles toward the main runway at Edwards Air Force Base. Piloted by astronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton, the prototype space shuttle enterprise settles toward the main runway at Edwards Air Force Base. Photo by: NASA
  • Piloted by astronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton, the prototype space shuttle enterprise settles toward the main runway at Edwards Air Force Base. Piloted by astronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton, the prototype space shuttle enterprise settles toward the main runway at Edwards Air Force Base. Photo by: NASA
  • Shuttle Enterprise is towed through hillsides on its way to Vandenberg Air Force Base. Shuttle Enterprise is towed through hillsides on its way to Vandenberg Air Force Base. Photo by: U.S. Air Force/TSGT Doug Gruben
  • The space shuttle Enterprise is parked atop its specially-designed 76-wheel transporter at Space Launch Complex Six. The space shuttle Enterprise is parked atop its specially-designed 76-wheel transporter at Space Launch Complex Six. Photo by: U.S. Air Force/William W. Thompson
  • The space shuttle Enterprise, mated to an external tank and solid rocket boosters, rests on the launch mount next to the access tower at Space Launch Complex Six.  The space shuttle Enterprise, mated to an external tank and solid rocket boosters, rests on the launch mount next to the access tower at Space Launch Complex Six. Photo by: U.S. Air Force/TSGT Doug Gruben
  • High angle overall view of Space Shuttle Enterprise in launch position on the Space Launch Complex (SLC) #6, commonly known as "SLICK 6", during the ready-to-launch checks to verify launch procedures. High angle overall view of Space Shuttle Enterprise in launch position on the Space Launch Complex (SLC) #6, commonly known as "SLICK 6", during the ready-to-launch checks to verify launch procedures. Photo by: U.S. Air Force/TSGT Doug Gruben
  • Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise is demated at Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, VA. Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise is demated at Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, VA. Photo by: NASA
  • Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise during restoration at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise during restoration at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. Photo by: Flickr user engmike8
  • A computer rendering of the new home for Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. A computer rendering of the new home for Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Photo by: Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2012 — It was six years after the final airing of the original Star Trek on television and the trekkie movement was alive and well. After a successful run in syndication, Paramount Pictures had announced and began script production on the franchise’s first major film titled “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” The victory for show creator Gene Rodenberry and trek fans alike would be one of many in the Star Trek universe.

Fast forward less than a year to Rockwell International’s facilities in Palmdale, California. Preparations to unveil to the public the first NASA Space Shuttle were underway. A formal dedication for Shuttle Constitution would be held on September 17th, 1976, on Constitution day.

Designated OV-101 (Orbiter Vehicle 101), Constitution was built to perform test flights within Earth’s atmosphere. Designed without physical engines, a heat shield and many systems required for space flight, the space vehicle would never leave Earth, making it the only space shuttle never to fly in space.

While a full campaign of testing was fully underway, another campaign 3000 miles away would define Constitution forever. Momentum was building around a write-in campaign to request a name change of Shuttle Constitution. Without any official mention by The White House or President Ford’s staff, over 400,000 Star Trek fans were petitioning the President to reconsider the name Constitution for America’s first space shuttle. Their request was simple - call it Enterprise.

President Ford, during World War II, was stationed on the aircraft carrier Monterey, which coincidentally had served with the USS Enterprise. Stating that he was “partial to the name,” he overrode the name Constitution and officially dubbed OV-101 Enterprise.

On Constitution Day, 1976, special guests along with NASA officials and President Ford dedicated the first in the fleet. Those special guests were from a not so distant television series. Joining NASA Administrator James Fletcher were Star Trek USS Enterprise crew members DeForest Kelley (Dr. “Bones” McCoy), George Takei (Mr. Sulu), James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), Gene Rodenberry (Series Creator), and Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Checkov).

Approach & Landing Tests

Less than five months after the formal dedication, Enterprise would take her maiden flight atop a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for a series of unmanned and unpowered tests to determine structural loads, handling, and monitoring of newly built ground systems. It was also an opportunity to test the ferry flight characteristics of the mated 747 and the shuttle itself. On August 12, 1977 Enterprise flew on its own for the first time with Commander Fred W. Haise, Jr. (former Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot) and Pilot C. Gordon Fullerton at the controls. The subsequent test flights would serve as the model for future shuttle landings after orbiting missions.

Retirement & Relocation

When all flight tests were completed, Enterprise was retired from duty. The vehicle had certain components removed which could be reused on on future shuttle missions. Enterprise then was sent on an international tour visiting the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, and within the United States, California, Alabama and Louisiana. Enterprise was sent via barge to Louisiana for display during the 1984 World’s Fair. While in California it was used as a fit-check to the never-used shuttle launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

On November 18, 1985 Enterprise was ferried to Washington, D.C., where it became property of the Smithsonian Institution and sat in storage until the opening of the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in November of 2004.

On April 12, 2011, NASA officially announced the winning facilities that will permanently display the retired shuttle fleet. Enterprise, which was on display at the Udvar-Hazy center would be replaced by Shuttle Discovery and sent to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.

Enterprise will depart Dulles International Airport and arrive at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on April 23rd, 2012 marking the first phase of relocation to the shuttle’s new home. In June, Enterprise will move by barge to the Intrepid, going past such iconic landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center.

“When the Enterprise touches down at JFK [Airport], it will signify the first step of its final journey to educate and inspire millions of people around the world about the groundbreaking work of the NASA space program,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D – New York). “The Enterprise will immediately become an iconic and must-see destination in New York that will further contribute to our reputation as the greatest city in the world.”

When the barge trip along the Hudson River is completed, Enterprise will be raised by crane to a place near the deck of the USS Intrepid, where it will be on public display in a temporary climate controlled facility until a permanent facility can be constructed.

About The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum complex includes the 900-foot-long aircraft carrier ‘Intrepid’ with seven full decks and four theme halls; the guided missile submarine Growler; and an extensive collection of over 30 aircraft including the A-12 Blackbird (the fastest plane in the world), and the British Airways Concorde (the fastest commercial aircraft in the world). Guests can experience areas of the ship including the Flight Deck, Hangar Deck, fo’c’sle (commonly known as the anchor chain room), new multimedia presentations and exhibit collections, interactive educational stations and a state-of-the-art public pier.

Guests to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum also can experience the 12,240 square-foot interactive Exploreum – which contains a variety of hands-on exhibits – that teaches guests about the different properties of the sea, air, space and living at sea as each relates to the ship Intrepid. In the Exploreum, guests can experience a flight simulator, transmit messages using Morse code, sit on the bunk of a crew member, learn how the Intrepid turned salt water into fresh water and perform various tasks while wearing space gloves.

For more information, go to www.intrepidmuseum.org.


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Todd Stowell

Todd Stowell is a freelance writer, photographer, and the User Experience Developer for The Washington Times and Communities at Washington Times. He is also the web developer for the Space Tweep Society, an online property bringing together members of NASA’s Tweetup events to an open forum to share space related topics and stories.

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