Hundreds of New Yorkers cheered yesterday as a 500-ton crane hoisted the Shuttle Enterprise onto the flight deck of its new home, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
The prototype shuttle, which arrived in the city in late April, is one of only four in existence. But it has faced delay after delay as it traveled from Washington, D.C., to the Hudson River landmark. New Yorkers said they couldn't be more excited to have this piece of space exploration history docked in their backyard.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime, can't-miss kind of thing," said Gavin Lee, 28, of the Financial District. "The fact that we have this right here, in our own city, it's just amazing. It's something practically nowhere else can claim."
Franklin Alexander, of Canarsie, sang "Lift Jesus Higher" after the aircraft began to rise from its transport barge.
"It's a very historical and beautiful event," Alexander said.
After two weather delays, the Intrepid flew into Kennedy Airport on the back of a 747 jet, arriving from its previous home at the Smithsonian's hangar near Dulles International Airport.
After about a month at JFK, the shuttle began its journey to the museum over the Hudson by barge last weekend, floating past the Statue of Liberty and finally arriving at Pier 85.
The shuttle display is set to open July 19, when the public will be able to walk directly beneath the shuttle. (The inside, however, will remain off-limits.)
Eric Boehm, the Intrepid's curator of aviation and aircraft restoration, said the 75-ton shuttle is a unique addition to the city.
"This is absolutely huge," Boehm said. "This is an icon, it's a national treasure and it's something that will help people actually wrap their head around space exploration.