Shuttle Enterprise boosts NYC's space cred
New York's most otherworldly attraction will arrive Friday when the shuttle Enterprise lands at Kennedy Airport docked on a 747, burgeoning the city's NASA connection and giving New Yorkers a truly historic sight.
The arrival of the Enterprise, which will be on permanent display at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum by mid-summer, is a tremendous coup for the city, as the shuttle is one of only four in existence. And though it never went into a space - it served as a prototype for other shuttles - its significance to New York cannot be overstated, experts said.
"Something like a space shuttle is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for New York, so we really put everything we possibly could into getting it," said Eric Boehm, curator of aviation at converted aircraft carrier that is the Intrepid museum.
"There's really nothing on this level anywhere in the region," he said. "A space vehicle like this, an artifact from the shuttle program, this is a first. Bringing it here really enhances NASA in the Northeast."
Though New York has never been known as a hub of large-scale space exploration activity, its connection to the space program still runs deep.
New York has spawned more astronauts than nearly any state, with about a dozen from New York City, including Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, and Ronald J. Grabe, a graduate of Stuyvesant High School.
Many companies instrumental in developing and building equipment for space exploration are also based here, such as Manhattan's Honeybee Robotics, which built instruments used in Mars missions, and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University and other such institutions have long been tied to NASA research.
Still, having such a rare artifact ties the city to the space program in a way like never before.
"It's absolutely unique . . . it's an integral part of American history, and it's a very logical place to put it," said Michael Shara, curator of the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Astrophysics. He added that the city has never had such a space exhibit of this level and it will be "fabulous" tourist attraction.
"Many cities across the U.S. competed for it, and I think we should be very proud that New York won it," he said.
(with Isabel Castro and Rachel Hawatmeh)
Follow reporter Tim Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera