Space shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space...

Space shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. (Craig Ruttle) Credit: Space shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. (Craig Ruttle)

New York's place in NASA history has reached a new height.

The Shuttle Enterprise exhibit opens today at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, 15 months after the museum was selected to be the shuttle's semi-permanent home.

Enterprise, the prototype for NASA's shuttle program, is on full display for the public to walk under and around in a pressurized, temperature-controlled bubble at the Intrepid, on Pier 86 at 46th Street and 12th Avenue.

The shuttle represents the city's first major artifact tying it the space program, and now that it's finally open it gives New York - and the Northeast region - a direct line into the history and future of the space program, Intrepid president Susan Marenoff-Zausner said.

"We've been working to be able to offer this to New Yorkers, to the region and to educators and students for three years, and to finally be able to do it is in an indescribable feeling," she said.

The 150,000-pound spacecraft, which flew all of its missions in 1977 within the Earth's orbit, will stay in the bubble for three to four years, after which it will be moved to its permanent home in the city, the location of which is still undecided, Marenoff-Zausner added.

Eric Boehm, curator of aviation and aircraft restoration at Intrepid, said having the exhibit finally open is a monumental gain for the city.

"I think it's one of those things you kind of have to step back and see," Boehm said. "I just can't use enough superlative language. It's so emotionally fulfilling to see this thing here and finally opening to the public.

Among the astronauts who will be at today's opening ceremony is Fred Haise, 78, who flew the Enterprise on five missions in 1977 and was on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. He told amNewYork yesterday that he hopes the shuttle will inspire generations to pursue space science and technology.

"This being here can trigger young children to aspire to take advantage of their talents and make a career in science and technology, and very few things can have the power that this will," Haise said.

He added that the shuttle's being in New York City will give it the best spotlight possible.

"I'm very happy that it got to a place ... that is a big population center and culture center," he said. "I'm just excited that so many people will see it."

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What to look for at this week's opening to the Space Shuttle Pavilion at Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

LOCATION Pier 86

ADMISSION Plus the Space Shuttle Pavilion ranges from $14-28, depending on age

FREE ENTRANCE for active and former U.S. military soldiers

CAMERA-READY Make sure your smart phone or DSLR has enough juice on the day of your visit. You'll want to snap photos of Enterprise, a 150,000-pound space shuttle, parked 10 feet from ground level.

CATCH A FREE SCREENING of "Star-Trek" (2009) on Intrepid's Flight Deck on Friday, July 20,at 7:30 p.m.  

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