The shuttle — named for the iconic "Star Trek" ship — is now housed in a 19,000-square-foot steel pavilion at Pier 84 featuring 17 new exhibits on NASA's space shuttle program. Museum officials cut a ribbon on the pavilion Wednesday afternoon, and then opened the doors to dozens of waiting visitors.
“[The opening] symbolizes that New York City is, bit by bit, recovering from the storm,” said Susan Marenoff-Zausner, the museum president.
The Enterprise was on display for barely three months before Hurricane Sandy struck, inundating the museum with 6 feet of salt water and destroying its welcome center and electrical system, officials said. Backup generators soon gave out, leading the original, inflatable space shuttle pavilion to collapse in on itself. The shuttle was not damaged.
The Intrepid’s main museum reopened its doors just before Christmas last year, but it took longer to construct the steel-framed, climate-controlled space the Enterprise now inhabits, officials said.
Like before, museum-goers can get an up-close view of the Enterprise’s mechanics — its landing gear is down, and its nose is positioned as it would be mid-flight.
The Enterprise never went into space, but NASA used the shuttle for 39 test missions both on the ground and in the atmosphere in 1977 as it developed its shuttle program.
When the space shuttle program was retired in 2011, New York City was chosen from a field of 20 competitors to become its permanent home. The Enterprise was the first space shuttle to be named to the National Register of Historic Places.
The new pavilion features many original artifacts, as well as photographs, films and recordings.
Carlo Saavedra, an Elmhurst resident and longtime museum member, said the new pavilion is an improvement.
“Now it’s beautiful,” said Saaverda, who often brings his grandchildren to the Intrepid. “I’m glad the bubble is gone — it was so ugly.”
Twins Gwendolyn and Guenevere Chin, 13, of Flushing, part of the museum's GOALS for Girls camp, were among the first visitors to the Enterprise on Wednesday.
“I’m excited to learn new things,” Guenevere said.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who chairs the council's Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, hailed the reopening as a sign of progress.
“There is no New York City without its cultural [institutions],” he said Wednesday. “This is another milestone in that recovery.”