The Space Shuttle

Courtesy of the annual Passover family trip, I was finally able to see the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter OV-101 Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum today. My last visit was before the Enterprise joined the collection; I knew I wanted to see the ship, but I wasn’t prepared for the depth of the emotional reaction I had.

Space Shuttle Enterprise, side view

As a child in the 1980s, the Space Shuttle program captured my imagination as the pinnacle of exploration. Looking back as an adult, it was a profoundly human affair, characterized by ambition, achievement, tragic error, and a yearning to go beyond. And at my mid-life, the sunset of the shuttle program, born around the same time as I was, feels like a death knell to me. Our government, symbolizing wide swaths of the people, have lost sight of the vision of programs like this, preferring to hide from the truths pursued by agencies like NASA and the EPA.

Space Shuttle Enterprise, side detail

The fact that the shuttles are in museums without obvious successors reflects the collective shrug of our country towards science, discovery, and exploration. Visiting Enterprise today, my eyes were moist, and I couldn’t help but feel the ship was weeping with me as well.

Space Shuttle Enterprise, nose
Space Shuttle Enterprise, underside
Space Shuttle Enterprise, landing gear tag
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