posted on Oct, 21 2004 @ 12:16 PM
CHANTILLY, Virginia (AP) -- The Smithsonian is about to take the wraps off a new hangar where visitors can get close to a space shuttle.
Come November 1, visitors to the National Air and Space Museum's northern Virginia branch will be able to see the space shuttle Enterprise, the
museum's second-largest artifact after the Concorde. Curators added more than 600 other space finds to the new wing, including rockets, satellites
and 1960s space capsules used by astronauts.
Since opening in December, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center -- some 25 miles west of Washington, D.C. -- has attracted 1.6 million visitors. The
exhibits include the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. But they couldn't walk through the 53,000 square foot hangar because
workers were scrubbing the grimy shuttle that had been in storage for nearly two decades.
The Enterprise flew five missions but never into space. It was used to test ideas and designs during the development of NASA's shuttle program.
"This is the closest you can ever get to a real space shuttle, and you can see it from every angle," said Valerie Neal, space shuttle curator,
standing next to the 112 foot long spacecraft.
But visitors cannot go inside the shuttle, which NASA stripped clean. The space agency also borrowed the front wing panels and the hardware that holds
them for its investigation into the disintegration of space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003 that killed the seven astronauts onboard.