Space Shuttle Enterprise: A Pioneer

Review

of an Exhibition

by Youngeun Yang

Published on April 10, 2013

  • Description:

    On the Hudson River at Pier 86 stands the 872 feet long retired Word War II US Navy Ship, Intrepid. In 2012, through the strenuous effort of the Intrepid Museum, Enterprise, the first space shuttle called an orbiter joined the museum’s collection of historical aircrafts. Unfortunately the Space Shuttle Pavilion, where the original space ship sat, was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. As an alternative to seeing the actual spaceship, the museum has opened up a temporary exhibition at Hanger Deck 2 Gallery, Space Shuttle Enterprise: A Pioneer, providing the story of the spaceship’s important role in the development of NASA’s space program through photographs, video clips, and artifacts.

    As I entered the ship through the main entrance on the second floor, I was instantly captivated by the extensive interior where various aircraft were displayed. As I walked near the first aircraft, diagonally across from the left wing of the aircraft a bright red doorway caught my eyes. On top of the doorway, in front of a white aircraft shaped panel it said, in bold black writing Space shuttle Enterprise: A Pioneer. Thanks to the bright color display of the exhibition’s entrance, I was able to find my way easily to the exhibition without getting lost in the extensive space of the museum.

    The first artifact that welcomed me was a window display of the actual instrumentation, which was once a part of Enterprise. Standing in front of what the pilot would have used to navigate the space shuttle, I felt the thrill of learning about the aircraft, which bears the same name as the spacecraft Enterprise of Star Trek, the science fiction television and a movie series. On top of the window display of the instrumentation, series of video clips of Enterprise was being shown as a concise introduction to what will come as I enter the doorway to the exhibition. Next to the instrumentation display, there is a small label that briefly summarizes the content of the video clip.

    I realized Enterprise exhibit was in a relatively small gallery space compared to most of the other large-scale installations of the museum. The bright white wall panel with the blue wall background made the space seem larger. As people started to walk in, the space quickly got crowded. The actual gallery space seemed to fit about six to seven people before getting too crowded. Although the intention behind the layout of the exhibition remains unknown to me, I felt the tight space was done intentionally for the visitors to feel as if they were actually inside a small aircraft, such as inside Enterprise.

    In a counter clockwise position, objects and photographs depicting the history of Enterprise were neatly displayed and contained under glass covers. Written above each individual installations, on the blue wall background, was the year and the description of a significant event that took place starting from 1957 when the space race began between the U.S and the Soviet Union to 2012 when Enterprise arrived at the museum. As a person who prefers information given in chronological order, it was refreshing to encounter such a clear-cut exhibition design. I felt moving away from the past nearer to the present as I walked along the gallery. My mind grew knowledgeable as the years went by as I viewed the photographs and artifacts that illustrate the importance of the aircraft, the first reusable orbiter, which carried crews and cargos within the atmosphere.

    The adjacent gallery also contained several artifacts and photographs but what captivated the other visitors and me were the video clips of Enterprise that narrated its history on a large screen. Although it was not the only video clip that showed Enterprise, it was the only one with audio sound, which seemed to be a major reason for stopping the foot traffic of the visitors. The last artifact before stepping out of the gallery showed piles of petitions signed by numerous people who supported the museum’s effort to bring Enterprise to the museum, which showed people of NYC’s acknowledgment of the importance of the spaceship.

    I visited the museum having minimal information about Enterprise. Although the small temporary exhibition has been installed for to substitute the presence of the actual Enterprise, the exhibition did an effective job educating me through the course of the space ship’s history and how this spacecraft has helped significant achievements in the development of United State’s space program. This exhibition intrigued me enough to have me planning ahead to come back to view the actual spaceship which will be redisplayed after its repair in June. This is definitely a worthwhile trip and an opportunity to take advantage before the exhibition ends in June. It will provide you with a better understanding and appreciation when you come again to view Enterprise when it returns to the museum deck.

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