As hundreds of spectators clapped, whistled and cheered, the space shuttle Enterprise completed its final journey Wednesday afternoon.
A crane slowly lifted the Enterprise above the Hudson River, then gently lowered the spacecraft to the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum — its new Manhattan home — shortly after 4 p.m.
Joining the throngs of onlookers lining the West Side waterfront was Tom Jones, 63, a Vietnam veteran from Indiana. He said seeing the shuttle atop a former aircraft carrier was a moment he’d never forget.
“There are not any words,” he said. “It made me feel pretty [expletive] proud.”
“It’s a very historical and beautiful event,” said Franklin Alexander, 52, of Canarsie, Brooklyn, who began singing “Lift Jesus Higher” after the shuttle began to rise from its transport barge, its nose pointed toward the skyline.
Jason Garfield, 22, of Merrick, a graduate accounting student at Yeshiva University, watched from a park just south of the Intrepid.
“Is this the coolest thing?” he said, as the crane prepared to hoist the prototype shuttle.
“I figure, if I’m in New York, why not come witness history?” he said.
The shuttle’s wingtip suffered light cosmetic damage during the Sunday trip when a wind gust caused it to graze a wood piling, museum officials said.
The Enterprise never went into space, but in 1977, it served as the prototype for the country’s celebrated space shuttle program. Since the early 1990s, it had been on display at the National Air and Space Museum annex near Washington.
As the Intrepid prepares permanent exhibit space for the spacecraft, it will open for public display July 19 inside a temporary, climate-controlled pavilion.
(With Joseph Mallia. Distributed by McClatchy/Tribune)