Enterprise Shuttle On Display Near DCBy Michelle
November 2, 2004 - 11:10 PM
The space shuttle Enterprise, which allowed NASA to test the technology that later allowed several other shuttles to carry astronauts into space, is on display for the public for the first time at close range.
CNN reports that Enterprise - originally proposed to be named Constitution, but renamed following a write-in campaign by Star Trek fans - can be viewed up close in its new home, a 53,000-square-foot hangar at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington DC.
Now that the shuttle has been cleaned and preserved, visitors can get close enough to see individual tiles, nearly close enough to touch Enterprise, though the museum's director said that there would be no tours of the interior because the inside has been stripped to support the other shuttles, including the destroyed Columbia, the second shuttle built and the first launched into space. "NASA stripped this vehicle completely," said museum director Jack Dailey. "There are many spares that have been removed from this vehicle."
Currently, light green material covers a piece of Enterprise's left wing where the leading edge has been removed. In investigating the accident that caused Columbia to disintegrate, investigators focused on the left wing which was believed to have been damaged during takeoff and later to have led to Columbia's demise. "These (panels) were borrowed by NASA for use in the Columbia accident investigation and they're continuing to be used in testing for return to flight activities," said curator Valerie Neal. The museum is required to keep parts of the shuttle in flight-ready condition.
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and actor Leonard Nimoy (Spock) were both invited to witness the rollout of Enterprise in 1976.