Along with many of New York City’s storm-struck communities, a colossal waterfront facility in Hell’s Kitchen is also scrambling to recover. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum has been closed since Sandy hit landfall in late October and is expected to reopen December 21st according to spokesperson Ashley Allen.
Flood waters damaged the floating complex’s electrical room and backup generators, causing a loss of power and leading to the deflation and disintegration of the inflatable, climate-controlled shell that housed the newly arrived Space Shuttle Enterprise. The storm also did some damage to the prototype orbiter. On its website, the Intrepid announced that “the shuttle sustained only minor damage to her vertical stabilizer.” However, with Enterprise sitting naked on the deck of the WWII-era aircraft carrier ever since, there’s a good possibility that it could currently be sustaining further damage.
I contacted NASA to get a better understanding of what this particular shuttle is made of and to find out how weather resistant it is. “[P]ortions of the exterior are foam and balsa wood, so it definitely can absorb water. In addition, there are some openings that allow water to accumulate inside the aft end, which will drain and evaporate,” explained Michael Curie of the Kennedy Space Center. “It is not intended for Enterprise to remain outdoors for these reasons.” In feline terms, Enterprise is apparently more of an indoor cat than an outdoor one.
After going on a publicity tour in the early 80s, Enterprise was retired to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 1985, where it sat comfortably, indoors, for 27 years. When NASA announced it was scrapping its shuttle program altogether and giving the orbiters to the intuitions most suited for their display and maintenance, it was agreed that Enterprise would be sent to the Intrepid and Discovery would replace it at the Smithsonian. In April, it was transported to New York City atop a specially equipped 747 jumbo jet to New York City and then barged to its resting place in Manhattan.
Luckily, the shuttle won’t be exposed much longer. “We will be constructing protective scaffolding around the shuttle to help protect it from the elements during the winter months,” said Adams by email.
As for reconstructing the pavilion that was designed to protect it from the elements, that’s going to take a bit longer, because… wind. “We are planning to recover the Enterprise in the spring when weather permits us to do so. (Winds are too strong this time of year.)”
(Photo: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)