Space Shuttle Enterprise Soars Over NYC

Juan Gonzalez

Thousands of excited space fans thronged viewing spots to see Space Shuttle Enterprise ferried to New York and home at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum on the West Side.

(NASA/Robert Markowitz)

Bill Rieke by far had the best view — he captained the NASA Boeing 747 that piggybacked the shuttle from Washington to Kennedy Airport on the first leg of its journey to the Intrepid Museum on Manhattan’s West Side.

“It was a magnificent sight to see the whole city in just 30 minutes,” Rieke told The Post. “It was really cool to fly up and down the Hudson. Most people don’t get to see New York the way we did it.”

The flight went off without a hitch, despite strong winds that made what Rieke called “potholes in the sky.”

UPI/NASA/Robert Markowitz

“It was bumpy up there because it was pretty windy — but nothing unsafe,” Rieke said. “I had to adjust my course slightly because the winds were so strong. But it ended up being just fine.”

As pilot-in-command, Rieke was too focused on his instruments to look out the window as much as his colleagues. “I said, ‘This stinks!’ ” he recalled.

“But I did look out there,” Rieke admitted. “It was really cool. The majority of the time I was the one flying the plane. Everyone else was enjoying the flight.”

Enthusiastic crowds gathered on the Hudson waterfront to watch the shuttle’s two thrilling Manhattan fly-bys.


 “Go NASA!” yelled one spectator.

“It’s so low! How cool is this? This is super-cool. Just very impressive,” said 28-year-old Manhattan resident Aleesa Radoncic.

Flying a Boeing 747 with a shuttle on its back is a little tricky, Rieke said. “It’s just like any other plane — you fall back on your training,” he said. “I try not to think too much about it.”

Rieke, 44, of Houston, says that thanks to his job, “I feel like I’m about 12 years old, because I’m just like a little kid in a candy store.”


He flew F-15 fighters along the East Coast for the Navy before going to work as a NASA pilot. Earlier this month, he flew Space Shuttle Discovery from Florida to Washington, where it took three spins over the city before landing at Dulles Airport.

After yesterday’s spectacular flight — which went up the Hudson to the Tappan Zee Bridge and included a loop over New Jersey and Long Island — Rieke and his five crewmates steered the giant jet, which NASA calls a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, toward JFK.

“Coolest. Thing. Ever,” a police chopper pilot radioed as he watched the plane head toward a smooth landing on Runway 31 L.Juan Gonzalez

As Rieke touched down at 11:22 a.m., a controller radioed: “Welcome to New York and thanks for the show. And thanks for the gift on the back of the plane — that’s really special treatment.”

The shuttle will stay at Kennedy until early June, when it will be transferred to a barge and floated to its new home at the USS Intrepid. Source: New York Post


How Nerds Named NASA’s Space Shuttle Enterprise

PHOTO: In 1976, NASA’s space shuttle Enterprise rolled out of the Palmdale manufacturing facilities and was greeted by NASA officials and cast members from the ‘Star Trek’ television series. From left to right they are: NASA Administrator Dr. James D. Fletcher; DeForest Kelley, who portrayed Dr. “Bones” McCoy on the series; George Takei (Mr. Sulu); James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott); Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura); Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock); series creator Gene Rodenberry; an unnamed NASA official; and, Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov). CREDIT: NASA

The naming of the space shuttle Enterprise involves one of the funniest presidential orders of all time. Enterprise, the first space shuttle orbiter, was originally to be named Constitution, in honor of the Constitution of the United States.

However, “Star Trek” fans started a write-in campaign urging the White House to instead select the name of the starship that James T. Kirk captained in the original TV series. Although President Gerald Ford did not mention the campaign, he directed NASA officials to change the name, saying he was “partial to the name” Enterprise.

In recognition of their namesake, “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and most of the principal cast of the original series were on hand when the shuttle Enterprise was rolled out of Rockwell’s Air Force Plant 42, Site 1, Palmdale, Calif., assembly facility on Sept. 17, 1976.

Enterprise was built for NASA to perform test flights in the atmosphere; lacking engines or a functional heat shield, it was not capable of actual spaceflight. NASA planned to eventually outfit Enterprise for spaceflight and to make it the second space shuttle to fly, after Columbia, but final design plans for the fuselage and wings of the orbiters changed during the construction of Columbia, and refitting Enterprise in accordance with the new plans would have required significant effort.

Entire sections would have to be dismantled and shipped across the country to subcontractors. Instead it was deemed less expensive to build the space shuttle Challenger from existing materials. Source: Space.Com

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