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Heroes, Last Thoughts (the Friday edition), Photography, Positively Newsworthy

Last thoughts: The arrival of the Space Shuttle Enterprise in New York City

Arrival of the Space Shuttle Enterprise in NYC - © 2012 Karina Chapman

Arrival of the Space Shuttle Enterprise in NYC - © 2012 Karina Chapman

“When this ship was first built, it was named Constitution. ‘Star Trek’ fans can be very persuasive. They sent a lot of letters to President Gerald Ford, and the president logically decided that the ship should be named after our Spaceship Enterprise.” – Leonard Nimoy (Spock)

As always, the Friday…er, the Saturday edition combines a quote with a favorite photo. I tailor these to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme, which this week is “Together”.

I don’t know if the WordPress crew suggested this theme with the shuttle in mind, but I have to wonder. It’s the perfect theme for the Space Shuttle Enterprise, which was piggybacked together with a NASA 747 yesterday for its historic flight over Hoboken and Manhattan.

My daughters and I waited a week for the weather to cooperate, and for NASA to announce the flight was a go. Twice, we were literally packed and the bags were in the car, ready for the 6 hour drive from Maine, only to find out in a last check of the news before leaving that the shuttle had been grounded once again.

Thursday evening, after participating in my daughter’s “Asia Night” school program, we finally left for Hoboken. It was 7:30 at night, rainy, and foggy, but we were determined to see the shuttle.

It was the hardest drive south I’ve ever made, and I was exhausted by the time we arrived just before 1 a.m., but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

On Friday morning, my girls and I stationed ourselves on a grassy hillside on a little man-made island in Hoboken, across the river from New York City. It was a great spot, overlooking the Hudson River, with views of both the Freedom Tower at World Trade and the Empire State Building. It was very cold and windy, but there is a playground on the island, and lots of people with dogs, so my girls were amply entertained.

I was watching my twitter feed for #SpottheShuttle, and I saw it start to light up with excited chatter. The Enterprise was spotted off the southern tip of Manhattan. We looked up…and there she was.

I can’t think about the experience without getting teary-eyed every time. I vaguely remember shouting, “She’s beautiful!”, while the hundreds of people, young and old, around me cheered.

On her first pass, Enterprise literally flew directly over the top of us, which was an amazing experience in itself. On her second pass, she flew over the top of the town of Hoboken, a bit more to our west, so we were treated to beautiful views of her against a brilliant blue sky.

The Space Shuttle Enterprise delights onlookers with a second pass over Hoboken - © 2012 Karina Chapman

The Space Shuttle Enterprise delights onlookers with a second pass over Hoboken - © 2012 Karina Chapman

It’s hard to put into words what seeing Enterprise in flight, and in person, meant to me. My family and I are supporters of NASA and space travel, so much so that for Christmas in 1971, our parents took us to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, or “Cape Kennedy” as it was called in those days.

Incredibly, visitors were allowed to tour through the Vehicle Assembly Building back then, and my family and I are part of the small percentage of Americans who have actually been inside that massive structure–the same building which would one day be used to prepare the American space shuttle fleet for launch. I was only five years old at the time, but even then I was awed by the sheer size of a building that our tour guides told us was so big, it even had its own weather.

I also remember reading about the Enterprise when I was a kid in the mid 1970s. My siblings and I are all “Star Trek geeks”, so we were thrilled when the name was changed from Constitution to Enterprise. Built without heat shields or engines, the Enterprise was used for ground and flight tests, including tests for vibration, flight control, and landings. It also became a symbol of our nation’s space program.

On August 12, 1977, my sister, Sylvia, and I marveled as we watched news footage of the first solo flight and successful landing of the Enterprise, which was launched in midair from the back of a NASA 747. Sylvia wrote about it, and later showed me her journal entry about how amazing it was to think that, one day, we would look back with nostalgia at the excitement over a first landing.

Enterprise did her part for our space program, allowing NASA and shuttle crews the chance to learn how to bring an unpowered “flying brick” and her crew safely back home to Earth. On April 12, 1981, the Space Shuttle Columbia became the first of our fleet to be successfully launched into orbit. Her flight, watched in awe by people all over our planet, lasted just 54 1/2 hours, during which the Columbia orbited Earth 37 times.

There were a total of 135 missions in all flown by our “workhorse” shuttle fleet. Sadly, we lost two shuttles and their crews–the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, and the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003.

When I learned that our fleet was to be retired, I was unbelievably sad. It was my vow to someday see a shuttle launch. Unfortunately, I never did. I have followed the shuttle fleet and their NASA missions for what feels like my entire life, and a world without Space Shuttle flights feels somehow diminished.

I know NASA has bold plans for the future. It is up to us to support them, and to petition our government to keep the funding, and the program, in the forefront of our nation’s vision for the future. It isn’t just NASA who wins when we make space travel a priority; we all win. The world is filled with a myriad of everyday conveniences we take for granted, many of which were developed through NASA for their various space programs. From the air conditioning that cools us to the high tech sneakers on our feet, the citizens of America, and of the world, all benefit when NASA goes to work.

When we saw the Space Shuttle Enterprise make her flight into New York yesterday, I felt the closure of an amazing chapter in American history. I was honored to be a witness to that.

Where we go from here, I’m not sure. What I do know, however, is that so long as we follow NASA’s lead, and keep our focus on possibilities, instead of the politics of divisiveness, we’ll do just fine.

Thank you, NASA. It was a great ride. We can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for us for the future.

NASA Space Shuttle Enterprise - © 2012 Karina Chapman

NASA Space Shuttle Enterprise - © 2012 Karina Chapman

About AlohaKarina

AlohaKarina (aka Karina Chapman) is a Writer, Photographer, and Educator who teaches middle school Science and Social Studies in Southern Maine. A cohort of the Maine Governor's Academy for Science and Mathematics Education Leadership, and a National Endowment of the Humanities Scholar (Abolitionism studies), she is credentialed to teach K-8 (all subjects) in both Maine and California. Karina has worked as a photographer, weekly columnist, and reporter for the Eureka Times-Standard daily newspaper in Northern California. She has also written for both and (as K.M. Chapman). Karina's superpower is speed-pouring killer margaritas. If she had to choose where to live for the rest of her life, she would choose Kennebunkport, Hawaii Kai, and San Francisco.


23 thoughts on “Last thoughts: The arrival of the Space Shuttle Enterprise in New York City

  1. Beautiful . . . you got me all choked up, Karina. I’m so happy that you and your girls got to share that moment. It is surely one that they will treasure for years to come.

    Posted by Terese Hodgdon | April 28, 2012, 3:09 pm
  2. Thanks, Terese. They were so excited–we all were. Now they want to come back in early June to see it moved by barge to the Intrepid Museum. I told them I’m game! :)

    Posted by AlohaKarina | April 28, 2012, 3:19 pm
  3. Perfect photo. Perfect post. What a sighting. Thanks for sharing the excitement.

    Posted by rutheh | April 28, 2012, 4:39 pm
  4. Oh Wow! These are superb :-) You captured them perfectly in my eyes. I like the way the shuttle is being carried home safely by the other plane. Amazing photographs karina :-D

    Posted by Imogen Shepard | April 29, 2012, 8:28 am
  5. Karina – This is a marvelous posting, full of detail that I wanted to receive and emotions that I would have happily shared if I had been there with you. So glad you and the girls could witness this stirring event! And the photos are superb!!!

    Posted by Lani Blazer | April 29, 2012, 11:11 am
  6. WOW WOW WOW! How exciting. If I could I would have traveled to see this sight as well. What a remarkable memory you and your girls will have. The photos you took are quite exceptional. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Also an excellent choice for the Daily Post at weekly challenge.


    Posted by fgassette | April 29, 2012, 12:45 pm
  7. Wonderful that you had the chance to go and see this in real life. The first shot is awesome with the flag in the foreground. Very interesting reading too.

    Posted by reb | April 29, 2012, 9:29 pm
  8. I love this post and that’s not only because of the Star Wars reference :p

    Posted by riatarded | May 1, 2012, 11:50 pm
  9. I’ll miss the space program. I remember having my grandmother wake me up so I could watch the landing on the moon back in 1969. Been following it ever since.

    Posted by Russel Ray Photos | May 8, 2012, 12:19 pm
    • My family all watched the Moon landings, too. I must have but I was only 3 at the time so I don’t remember the first one. I vaguely remember the last, though. Hazy memories of the launches and splashdowns. I do remember the rockets and visiting Cape Kennedy and the Kennedy Space Center pretty vividly. We were there when they were still doing moon missions, and got to see the launch pads from pretty close up.

      It was an amazing time. Teaching about the Moon really brought home to me how important those missions were. We learned so much. People think, “Eh, we brought back a bunch of moon rocks, so what.”But it was so much more. We should still have moon missions even now–we’d still be learning something new every single time.

      Posted by AlohaKarina | May 8, 2012, 9:58 pm
  10. Reblogged this on The Positive Page and commented:

    I don’t normally reblog, but this morning I got all choked up watching the Space Shuttle ENDEAVOR make her final flight to California. Last April, my daughters and I drove to New York City to see the last flight of the ENTERPRISE. It was an amazing experience, and one I’d like to revisit on this historic day.
    Thank you for supporting my little indulgence!
    Happy almost-Friday!

    Posted by AlohaKarina | September 20, 2012, 7:51 pm


  1. Pingback: Monday Challenge: Get some rest! « The Positive Page - April 30, 2012

  2. Pingback: Challenger Disaster Tests America as One of TV’s Most Powerful Moments over the Last 50 Years « Prose Ventures - July 11, 2012

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