August 20, 2013 8:01 pm

Attending the Reopening of the Enterprise Space Shuttle Pavilion at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Space Shuttle Enterprise on the Intrepid

Photo Credit: Megan Bednarz

Today’s guest blog post is from StarTalk Volunteer Megan Bednarz, who spent the summer as an instructor for Camp GOALS for Girls at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex.

After nearly a whole summer of working as an instructor for Camp GOALS for Girls I am still not used to walking across a plank to clock in. I’m also not used to walking passed aircraft such as the Piasecki or Skyhawk along my path to the education offices. Today I’m writing about one of my favorite days this summer, July 10th, which started out as a normal day (as normal as it gets working at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex) and soon became an exceptional one as I was swept away to the reopening of the Space Shuttle Pavilion.

Framed by the Manhattan skyline and the Palisades, hundreds were gathered on the Intrepid’s flight deck overlooking the Hudson River for the formalities. A warm but thankfully breezy morning hosted an eager crowd of museum students, staff, volunteers, veterans, friends and media. The NYC Police Band provided a crisp soundtrack in front of the carrier’s navigation bridge, which boldly states in bright red letters “BEWARE OF JET BLASTS, INTAKES AND PROPS.”

The president of the museum, Susan Marenoff-Zausner, welcomed the crowd and spoke from her heart. She emphasized how the re-opening of the Space Shuttle Pavilion symbolizes a certain resilience found in the greater New York area and an ability to remain strong and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy struck on October 29th, 2012. Just last summer Enterprise, NASA’s orbiter prototype that conducted flight tests in Earth’s atmosphere in 1977, made its way to the Intrepid from JFK International Airport after piggybacking a Boeing 747 and then hitching a ride up the Hudson River on a barge. Reflecting on the last year, the crowd was able to thoughtfully acknowledge the processes needed to overcome any setback brought on by a natural disaster.

President Marenoff-Zausner also took the time to proudly reiterate the educational mission of the museum complex. The museum meets 60,000 students a year between the camps, after-school programs, access programs, in-school demos and professional development.  Tireless efforts are put forth to inspire future scientists, researchers, engineers, enthusiasts, educators and space explorers. Hearing graduate Arianna Pincay speak of her experience attending LIFT (Leadership Institute For Today and Tomorrow) was nothing less than inspiring. Programs like these enrich the community and give students evidence that hard work paired with individual creativity and talent is enough for them to surpass any goal they set and undoubtedly inspire others along the way.

Photo of Ribbon Cutting at Shuttle Pavilion reopening with the kids of Camp Intrepid taken by Megan Bednarz

Ribbon Cutting with the kids of Camp Intrepid. Photo Credit: Megan Bednarz

With remarks and ribbon cutting complete, it was time to go inside! The hallway that brings you into the exhibit is complete with a soundscape of the exchange between the pilot and mission control during the last test flight made by Enterprise. This provides just the right amount of suspense before actually laying eyes on the orbiter herself. Witnessing the sheer size of Enterprise was enough to stop me in my tracks.  Being able to walk under and along side Enterprise in such close proximity is a privilege and pleasure. Visitors are able to climb a set of stairs to be just inches from her nose. This makes for a great photo opportunity. The orbiter, perfectly lit, sits with her nose tilted up in a giant room with very high ceilings that are painted blue and black giving the illusion she is headed into space.

With the re-opening came many exciting additions to the Space Shuttle Pavilion. One highlight is a display case full of technologies we use in everyday life that were actually spin-offs from the inventions made specifically for space missions. Another highlight is the Soyuz TMA-6 Space Capsule, with full view of its cockpit, placed under the tail of Enterprise. This offers a chance to behold these two spacecraft side by side contemplating how different they are and what technological advancements took us from one to the other.

Other fun additions to the Pavilion include a replica of the Enterprise cockpit, a case full of the original orbiter concept models designed for wind tunnel testing, chronological blown up images of each Space Shuttle explaining their differences, snippets of Enterprise in pop culture, a constant live feed from NASA’s website, as well as a detailed thanks to each department that had an invaluable role in making a Space Program possible. And of course, the Space Shuttle Pavilion would be entirely incomplete if it was not for the looping film of historical footage narrated by the science officer of that other famous Enterprise, none-other than Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.

Tours are available to visitors who wish to delve deeper into the history of the Space Shuttle Program and are led by the museum’s dedicated and knowledgeable tour guides. Educational Demos also take place on a stage inside the Pavilion and are presented to visitors by the Intrepid’s dynamic Museum Educators who use a bell jar, vacuum and household items such as balloons, marshmallows and a cup of water to show and explain why our atmosphere is so precious and why going into space without a space suit is simply a horrible idea.

Attending the re-opening of the Space Shuttle Pavilion was more awesome than I could have predicted. Being so new to the Intrepid community, it was comforting to see my co-workers as well as the current and former Camp GOALS girls glow from the excitement that surrounded the day. It seems clear to me that the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex and StarTalk Radio share the mission of encouraging their visitors and listeners to confidently use science as a utility belt when asking questions and seeking challenges.