The brilliant space Web site collectSPACE has a great article about the Smithsonian’s efforts to prepare Enterprise for flight.
OV-101, the original atmospheric-flight-test space shuttle orbiter, is currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center hangar. Since the Smithsonian has already laid claim to Discovery after the orbiter fleet is retired, the museum is going to relinquish Enterprise for display elsewhere, and is currently preparing her to be transported to that as-yet-undetermined location.
My vote for that as-yet-undetermined location, of course, is Huntsville.
First, I believe that the three available orbiters — Enterprise, Atlantis and Endeavour — should, as did the three remaining Saturn V rockets, go to the museums at the three NASA centers most associated with human space flight — Johnson, Kennedy and Marshall. I realize there are other worthy sites, and acknowledge my bias here, but I think those are the best places for them.
Now, to be sure, I wouldn’t turn away a flown orbiter if they really wanted to put one here. I initially considered Enterprise as a consolation prize; that the two remaining flown orbiters were more likely to end up somewhere else, but I’m beginning to think that Enterprise might be the best fit here on her own merits.
For one thing, Enterprise has history here. She came to Huntsville in 1978 for vibration studies in Marshall’s Dynamic Test Stand. See here, here, here and here. Columbia, at least, flew through Huntsville once, but Huntsville and Marshall don’t have the same relationship with any of the flown orbiters that we do with Enterprise.
And, in addition, she fits. Right now, we have “two” Saturn V rockets here, making us unique. One is just a model, standing vertically outside the museum. The other, the “real” one, is the Dynamic Test Vehicle, which was also used for vibration studies at the Dynamic Test Stand and then sent to Kennedy to test out the infrastructure there. In other words, it’s the Enterprise of Saturn Vs.
We also have one “orbiter” already, OV-098 Pathfinder, which is essentially a model, though that description fails to do justice to her role and history.
Enterprise, then, would complete the set. One model and one dynamic test article each for the Saturn V and the shuttle. My dream would be that we even display them the same — the 500F Saturn V and Enterprise both displayed horizontally in nice buildings, and Pathfinder and the Saturn V model both displayed vertically outside. (I’m not sure about the structural feasibility of putting Pathfinder on end, she’s had problems enough lying down, but as long as I’m thinking wishfully … )
So, contact your congressman today and tell them to send Enterprise to Huntsville! Or something!