Welcome home, space shuttle Enterprise.
The NASA shuttle soared over the Statue of Liberty and the world’s most famous skyline Friday morning before landing safely at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Hundreds were waiting to greet the aircraft, including NASA dignitaries, fidgety schoolchildren and Leonard Nimoy.
“It feels like a reunion,” Nimoy told CNN. Nimoy, who played Spock on the 1960s sci-fi series “Star Trek,” recalled being photographed with the Enterprise when it was first unveiled as part of a politics-meets-pop culture moment. Then-President Ford had ordered the shuttle named after the show’s fictional star ship Enterprise following a letter-writing campaign by fans of the series.
Before the landing, residents throughout the tri-state area lined the Hudson River, tumbled out onto sidewalks and scrambled onto rooftops in the hopes of getting a glimpse, camera phones held high.
The Enterprise was affixed atop a specially modified 747 that had taken off earlier in the morning from Dulles International Airport near Washington. The sight was enough to cause even the most jaded New Yorkers to stop and stare skyward.
The Big Apple had been waiting for the moment all week. The Enterprise was originally supposed to arrive Monday, and then Wednesday. But those plans were canceled due to bad weather.
The Enterprise is one of four NASA shuttles that are going into retirement throughout the United States, after a fierce political battle over which cities would get one.