Space shuttle exhibit opens at Intrepid Museum (pictures)
The Space Shuttle Enterprise exhibit has officially opened at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York, and CNET goes behind the scenes.
Space shuttle exhibit opens
The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is housed on the retired aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, moored on the banks of the Hudson River in New York. It's the new home of the Space Shuttle Enterprise, and CNET attended a preview of an exhibit devoted to the spacecraft.
The Space Shuttle Enterprise fills the entire pavilion and is impressively large. It was originally known as the Constitution, but President Gerald Ford agreed to rename the craft the Enterprise after a letter campaign from "Star Trek" fans.
The Space Shuttle Enterprise never saw space, and was used in initial test flights in the late '70s. NASA's original intention was to convert the shuttle to space-worthiness, but this proved too costly and it ended up being cannibalized for parts for the other shuttles. Note the small hatch at the top left; that's the exit.
After the Columbia disaster in 2003, the Enterprise was used to determine the reason behind the tragedy. Here's a section of the craft that was laid with the tiles used on the Columbia; the tiles covering the underside of the rest of the Enterprise are "simulated" and weren't built to withstand re-entry.
The new tiled section of the craft was bombarded with foam blocks (like what fell from the Challenger at launch) to test the tiles' ability to withstand impacts. At the top left, you can see the damage caused.
The Enterprise prototype was the first of six shuttles, which also included the Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis. The final mission of the Atlantis ended July 21 2011, and officially marked the finish of the 30-year-old space shuttle program.
The USS Intrepid is the final resting place of the Enterprise, but the large, inflatable hall that houses the new exhibit isn't a permanent structure. The museum intends to build a dedicated housing for the shuttle in the next couple of years.