New York will finally get its long-sought space shuttle. There’s just one catch: It’s never actually been to outer space.
Yesterday, NASA announced that New York — after “years of relentless lobbying,” according to Sen. Charles Schumer’s office — won the right to host the Enterprise shuttle.
But if New Yorkers want to see a shuttle that’s actually been to space, they’ll have to shell out for a plane ticket: Three other NASA shuttles, which all actually flew space missions, will be sent to museums in California, Virginia and Florida.
The Smithsonian Institute will get the Discovery; Kennedy Space Center in Florida will keep the Atlantis; and the California Science Center in Los Angeles will house the Endeavour.
Our shuttle never made it past 30,000 feet, said Columbia University astrophysics professor Arlin Crotts. The Enterprise was a prototype and only used for training, said NASA officials.
“Most of us have been in an airplane higher than that,” Crotts told Metro.
The Enterprise is on display at the Smithsonian, but once they get the Discovery, which flew more missions than any other shuttle, they’ll send their cosmic castoff to the Big Apple. It’s nonetheless expected to attract a million visitors a year to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, where it will be docked.
The 150,000-pound spacecraft — slated to arrive in the city some time next year — will be in a glass exhibit.
The Enterprise was built in 1976 and used as a training vehicle, said a NASA spokesman. It was largely used to test landing.
Astronauts, like Apollo 13 veteran Fred Haise, piloted test runs with the Enterprise strapped to the back of a 747 plane. After flying several thousand feet, pilots would release it to test if it would crash or glide back to Earth.
Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter at @AlisonatMetro.