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June 5, 2012

Closeup Photos of Space Shuttle Enterprise Hitting a Bridge Abutment

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Enterprise's left wingtip hits a bridge abutment. (Photo by Manny Gonzalez)

That’ll buff right out.

Space Shuttle Enterprise finished its barge ride a little worse for wear on Sunday, with its right wingtip scraping wooden pilings as it made its way between two bridge support structures. The bridge carries New York City Transit’s A train across Jamaica Bay and was not damaged.

A statement from the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum, which is in charge of moving the retired shuttle to its new home on their flight deck, blamed the weather.

While approaching the Railroad Bridge, a sudden microburst of wind, measured at 35 knots, caused the rub panel foam protective layer of the wingtip of the Enterprise to graze the protective wood piling bumpers in the water designed to bumper vessels. The bridge was not involved.

Space Shuttle Enterprise wing scrape photos

Some observers noted that before the incident that the wind had picked significantly up as a line of thunderstorms passed near the area, and were surprised that the operation wasn’t suspended temporarily. Even in ideal conditions, Enterprise would have cleared the narrow passage by only a few feet on either side.

According to CollectSpace, David Jenkins, who was on the tugboat pushing Enterprise, said the crew was a bit skittish after the incident, making sure to be extra careful as they traversed the Cross Bay Bridge less than a mile away. “The Cross Bay provided a few heart-stopping seconds, but that was mostly because we were gun-shy after the incident at the railroad bridge (the two bridges are only a few hundred yards apart),” Jenkins wrote. “The rest of the journey was completed without incident.”

This isn’t the first time a priceless aerospace artifact in the care of Intrepid has run into trouble. In 2008, the museum’s British Airways Concorde (G-BOAD) was moved to a Brooklyn parking lot while the museum underwent renovations, during which the iconic plane suffered indignities such as being used as a wall for kids to bounce balls off of and a nesting area for local birds. To add insult to injury, a passing truck broke its nose off.

Concorde (G-BOAD) makes its way through the same bridge as it is transported from JFK Airport to Intrepid on Nov. 24, 2003. (Photo by Michael F. McLaughlin)

Concorde (G-BOAD) makes its way through the same bridge as it is transported from JFK Airport to Intrepid on Nov. 24, 2003. (Photo by Michael F. McLaughlin)

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  • That is just great. Flies millions of miles around the Earth at thousands of miles per hour and crashes on a river at 10 mph. Head Smack! Don’t let those tug boat operators anywhere near Cape Canaveral.

    • Enterprise never went to space 🙂 But yeah.. shame. Hope it is fixable.

  • I cant even describe how much this pisses me off New York should have never gotten a space shuttle!!!

  • R

    That’s no “graze!” The whole wing tip is abraded to the “bone!”
    Well, anyway, it shows how this prototype will be cared for at the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum if one call call it a “museum.”