Shuttle Enterprise makes its last flight

The one space shuttle that never got into orbit is headed to its final frontier, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York. There will be photo ops.

Shuttle Enterprise, meet the crew of the starship Enterprise. This photo from 1976 includes both NASA officials and cast members from the original "Star Trek" series, pictured from left to right: James D. Fletcher, NASA administrator; DeForest Kelley (the TV show's Dr. McCoy); George Takei (Mr. Sulu); Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura); Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock); Gene Rodenberry (the creator of "Star Trek"); an unidentified man; and Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov). The bearded fellow behind Takei and Nichols would seem to be James Doohan (Scotty from the show) NASA

It's the one space shuttle that never made the trip to space.

And now the shuttle Enterprise is making the journey to its final frontier, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York. It flew into JFK Airport from Washington Dulles this morning, not on its own power but latched atop NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

NASA has made an event out of the short flight. The twinned aircraft flew at a low altitude over the New York metropolitan area and passed within photo-op range of landmarks including the Statue of Liberty. It has now landed in New York.

The Enterprise passes by the New York skyline this morning. NASA

The Enterprise, officially designated OV-101, served as a test vehicle in 1977 before NASA was ready to send the orbiters into space -- the honor of that historic space flight went to Columbia in 1981. The Enterprise flew only a handful of times, in the air over Southern California.

Yes, there is a "Star Trek" connection. Originally, the OV-101 was to be called the Constitution -- its final assembly occurred in the bicentennial year of 1976. But fans of the landmark TV show (at the time, there had been only the one, and no movies yet) mounted a write-in campaign to get the shuttle to carry the name of the show's famed starship.

Although the aircraft-like space shuttles were designed to descend through Earth's atmosphere on their own, for more prosaic trips -- as from the landing strip at Edwards Air Force Base in California back to Cape Canaveral in Florida -- they hitched a ride atop one of NASA's specially designed 747s .

The shuttle fleet was retired last year after 30 years of trips to and from orbit . The surviving space planes are being farmed out to museums for their retirement years.

The Enterprise will stay attached to the 747 for several weeks, and then in June it will take a barge ride up the Hudson River to the Intrepid museum.

Updated at 8:30 a.m. PT to note that the Enterprise has landed in New York.

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About the author

Jonathan Skillings is managing editor of CNET News, based in the Boston bureau. He's been with CNET since 2000, after a decade in tech journalism at the IDG News Service, PC Week, and an AS/400 magazine. He's also been a soldier and a schoolteacher, and will always be a die-hard fan of jazz, the brassier the better.

 

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