Yesterday, the Space Shuttle Discovery, after arriving in Washington last Tuesday, was officially handed over to the Smithsonian Institute with a solemn ceremony. Soon it will be on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Institute’s National Air and Space Museum.
During the ceremony, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery appeared next to the Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise, a prototype built for atmosphere tests that for some time was exhibited the Smithsonian Institute.
Originally, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise was to be called Constitution but a campaign by Star Trek fans convinced then-President Gerald Ford to name it after the starship of the famous science-fiction saga. When this prototype was rolled out, at the ceremony there were Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and several actors from the original series of Star Trek.
After the disaster of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the idea was considered of providing the Enterprise with engines and heat shield but in the end it was decided to use spare parts produced for other Orbiters to build the Space Shuttle Orbiter Endeavour.
The Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise was used for the last time after the disaster of the Space Shuttle Orbiter Columbia to perform new resistance tests. Later, it was brought to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum to be exposed.
Now the place of the Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise is taken by the Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery and in the coming days the Enterprise will be moved to New York, where later will be transported to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
In yesterday’s ceremony, among the speakers there was Senator John Glenn, who in 1998 became the oldest man to travel into space at 77 on the Space Shuttle Discovery. Glenn remembered that he opposed the decision to end the Space Shuttle program taken by the George W. Bush administration. The fact that NASA has not yet a replacement for the Space Shuttles and the new Space Launch System announced in September 2011 is a long term project proves he was right.
At yesterday’s ceremony there was a big crowd again, proving that after all there’s still some interest in space missions. However, it’s clear that at least in the short term we’ll have to rely on other nations to advance space programs because the U.S.A. is taking steps backwards instead of forward.