Thursday marked the beginning of a new mission for the U.S. space shuttle Enterprise, as it went on public display at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.
The nation’s first space shuttle is housed in an inflatable dome, suspended about 300 centimeters (about 13 feet) in the air above the deck of a refurbished World War II-era aircraft carrier, allowing visitors a chance to walk under underneath the huge vehicle, which boasts a 23-meter (75.5-foot) wingspan.
Enterprise was built in 1976 as a test vehicle to demonstrate the spacecraft’s ability to fly and land like an airplane, paving the way for the five shuttles that eventually flew into space during the shuttle’s 30-year history.
Enterprise was flown to New York in April on top of a 747 jumbo jet, thrilling residents as it flew over the Manhattan skyline and past the Statue of Liberty on its way to John F. Kennedy’s International Airport. The shuttle was transported to the museum by barge last month.
Enterprise was housed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. before it was moved to New York and replaced by the space shuttle Discovery. The space shuttle Endeavour is now displayed at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, while space shuttle Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The other two space shuttles were destroyed during flight, Challenger in 1986, and Columbia in 2003.