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Space Shuttle Enterprise arrives in NYC atop a Boeing 747 (+video)

Earlier today, NASA's Space Shuttle Enterprise touched down in New York City, where it will find a new home in the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

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On June 4, Enterprise will be hoisted onto a specially configured barge and towed down the Hudson River to a dock in Bayonne, N. J. Once there, the space shuttle will be transferred to another barge outfitted with a large crane.

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The crane-equipped barge will then complete the trip with Enterprise up the Hudson on June 6, pulling up next to the Intrepid and offloading the orbiter onto the museum's flight deck. A climate-controlled structure made of steel and fabric will then be erected over the shuttle beginning on June 7.

The Intrepid plans to open its new "Space Shuttle Pavilion" to the public on July 19. Inside, guests will find Enterprise displayed as if it were landing from one its test flights, its nose raised into the air and tailcone attached at its rear.

The flight deck exhibit, however, is intended to be temporary. Over the next few years, the Intrepid has plans to build a Science and Technology Center, which will become Enterprise's permanent home.

Ship and shuttle's space history

Enterprise and the Intrepid both played important but supporting roles in NASA's human spaceflight efforts.

Originally called the "Constitution," Enterprise got its name after fans of the sci-fi TV series "Star Trek" staged a successful write-in campaign.

The first of NASA's orbiters to roll off the assembly line, Enterprise is best known for the nine-month Approach and Landing Test (ALT) program, which demonstrated that a spacecraft that launched like a rocket could fly in the atmosphere and land like an airplane, except without power-gliding flight.

In addition to ground tests and captive flights (during which Enterprise remained atop its carrier plane), two astronaut crews took turns flying the 150,000-pound (68,000-kilogram) spacecraft to free-flight landings.

After the ALT program ended, Enterprise was used as a test and fit-check vehicle for the space shuttle program's ground processing facilities and two launch pads — Kennedy Space Center's Complex 39 in Florida and the planned but never used SLC-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Enterprise also became the only space shuttle to fly overseas, visiting the Paris Air Show as well as Germany, Italy and England before returning to the U.S. — and flying over New York City — in 1983.

As for the Intrepid, prior to becoming a museum in 1982, it served as the primary recovery ship for two of NASA's early manned spaceflights.

The Intrepid returned to land Scott Carpenter and his Aurora 7 Mercury spacecraft after the United States' second manned orbital flight splashed down 50 years ago this May. The aircraft carrier also recovered the first two-man crew of the Gemini program after that spacecraft landed in March 1965.

Replicas of both spacecraft are on display as part of the Intrepid's space exhibits.

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