24° Good Afternoon
24° Good Afternoon

Shuttle Enterprise sets sail for new home

The space shuttle Enterprise briefly took flight Saturday afternoon -- with help from a harness and a crane.

Without fanfare, the shuttle rose from its temporary resting place near Kennedy Airport and was gently lowered onto a waiting barge in Jamaica Bay.

Sunday, the historic spacecraft will cruise to Weeks Marine in Jersey City, where it will be transferred to a larger barge. Then on Tuesday it heads to its new home at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, at Manhattan's Pier 86.

"It never ceases to amaze me how remarkable this is," said museum president Susan Marenoff-Zausner, who watched from across the water as the shuttle completed the first phase of its final journey. "We're dealing with an American icon."

Though it never went into space, the Enterprise helped launch the shuttle program. Built in 1976, it made 13 in-atmosphere flights in 1977, helping prepare for later shuttles' journeys into space.

The Enterprise has long been a museum piece, put on display at the Smithsonian in Washington in 1985. NASA ended the shuttle program last year after three decades.

Engineers preparing for the transfer of the 150,000-pound craft worked out every conceivable detail -- from studying tides to find the best time to transport it to checking bridge heights for clearance.

Sunday, the Enterprise's barge will depart at about 7:45 a.m. Traveling along the shore of Queens and Brooklyn, the shuttle will pass the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge around 3:30 p.m. and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at 5:30 before docking in New Jersey at 6.

Saturday's transfer to the barge by Bay Crane and Weeks Marine took several hours.

While the operation was in a remote area, generally out of public view, Alex Velez, a Port Authority police officer, got a glimpse.

He rolled up in his cruiser and snapped a few photos with his iPhone.

"I can always look back and say I saw it," Velez said, noting that he plans to take his daughter to the museum to see Enterprise up close. "It's just amazing, and now everybody gets to enjoy it."


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