Such Swans need to fly.
They’re big. And out of habitat. Feathers doubtlessly ruffled?
Like reluctant children dragging their feet.
Bumping into things on purpose to slow down progress.
Rough weekend for two flighty ones.
In the past always a bridesmaid never a bride, she was excited someone wanted her.
Flattered there was a battle for possession.
Expectations soared. The big ones called!
Hustled carefully aboard for her flight, she felt like a celebrity.
People were cheering!
The wind under her wings brought back such memories.
The victory sweep took her triumphantly across New York.
To be cherished is wonderful – rewarding.
Then the insult.
Wings having sliced through the blue sky were to be splashed with water.
Towed like a sack of potatoes – pushed from behind – not by earth-rattling explosions – but by a grubby tug boat.
Shoved and bumped among her petticoats.
Did she lashed out to express her displeasure at such treatment?
She may have been just a prototype, but by her wings, she had flown.
She knew proper approaches and landings.
To the escorts of the NASA shuttle Enterprise, this trip must have reminded them of trying to shove a mad cat into a transport crate: all four feet grabbing the edges.
Petulantly, the Enterprise slugged a navigation guide for a New York railroad bridge on June 3rd.
She pretended not to notice the wooden bumpers as they neared the bridge until the last minute.
Angrily scraped her right wingtip along the bridge barrier breaking off foam chunks.
Was it, “You may be able to make me go, but I don’t have to like it”?
Her chaperones, alerted by the first incident, were anxious as they approached the Cross Bay Bridge.
There was just a few feet of clearance on each side of the narrow passage.
And the vertical space was tight.
Seemingly compliant, the shuttle began passage through.
But on a sudden whim, she lifted her wings in a sudden gust of wind – and banged into the bridge abutment.
It was enough to disturb her handlers although examination revealed the damage was cosmetic.
More foam ripped away from the leading edge of a flap, but no serious damage.
But perhaps a point made?
Only a few scratches, like a starlet’s chipped nail, to get their attention.
She was a star. And deserved respect.
This watery trip was so against her nature.
Soon a small final flight.
A swan song.
They will carefully lifted her – like a Swan Lake prima ballerina floating in the air .
Then lower her to her final nest aboard the Intrepid Sea and Space Museum.
High above the water, she will ignore it – and pretend the motion is not from waves.
She at least has memories of flight – even if it was a gliding one.
It was flight, partly fulfilling her original purpose.
She had that memory.
Unlike that other one.
That poor delusional ugly duckling, Explorer.
That replica always striving to mimic her older siblings.
That one would always be lacking.
A flower girl for 18 years.
Simply a decorative accessory.
A lawn decoration.
But at least that poor step child shuttle also was offered a home.
Not to wish any ill will, but it was best for Explorer to accept what she was:
Tried to counsel her.
Give her hope and a sense of purpose.
“They wanted you.
Just ignore the complaints that you are a consolation prize. Second best.
You were designed not to explore, but to be explored.
To ignite imaginations to help us all.”
That’s what she had said.
Trying to make the best of it.
And hoping the people in Houston at Johnson Space Center would treat Explorer kindly.
Tried to sooth Explorer’s fears:
Worries about losing her identity, her heritage, and her connection with space past.
There were rumors of renaming her – always a concern of adopted children.
“Maybe it will be something wonderful – not touristy or regional.
Shuttles belong to the world, not a one place.
NASA dreams big.” Endeavor reassured Explorer.
“They call the city H-town. And think of it!
You are the one chosen to go where the real spacemen live and train!”
Endeavor hoped that would satisfy.
Maybe a name like Hope.
A noun and a verb.
Or perhaps Honor.
Open-ended like space itself.
“Live in the moment of the transport.”
She’d counseled Explorer.
“When the hydraulics lift you high in the air over obstacles -
When they bank you over trees and signal lights -
Savor that feeling!
It’s little like flight.”
She hoped Explorer listened.
It’s all that she’ll ever have.
Spending life in a parking lot.
At least there are others nearby, like the Saturn Rocket, to whisper their memories and dreams of space.
Still with a small sense of family pride, she listened to the chatter about the replica’s homecoming.
They talked how Explorer transport hadn’t gone quite as planned.
She had cracked up a bit from the trip across the Gulf – but nothing serious. Easily patched up for the grand procession down Clear Lake.
But she flew through the narrow bridge passage.
And how the mock shuttle blushed amid the cheers and fireworks.
The final leg of the trip longer as she was a tad larger than expected. But all safely done.
Mission Control Houston: Explorer has safely arrived!
“All’s well that ends well,” Enterprise considers as she waits her own final act.
Waiting to take her final bow. Just like the other Shuttles.
Great white birds gracefully sinking into deep sleep.
Like Sleeping Beauties dreaming of being awakened.
Dreaming of flight.
A flighty mix of metaphors,
Phil,the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge
- “Space Shuttle Enterprise damaged at sea, delivery to Intrepid delayed”. (Photos of wing damage. article, and pictures. http://www.collectspace.com)
- “Space Shuttle Enterprise Damaged at Sea as Weather Delays NYC Intrepid Trip” (VIDEO. article. http://www.space.com)
- Intrepid Air and Space Museum. Space Shuttle Enterprise arrives! Info. Photos. Explore what the museum has to offer.
- ”Space, Lemons, and Lemonade.” Outstanding eyewitness blog post and photos of Explorer’s arrival ( bridge shots and more!)
- “Shuttle replica arrives at Johnson Space Center“. VIDEO of replica going down NASA RD 1. article. photos (NBC /click2 Houston news)
- “Shuttle replica takes Sunday drive to Space Center Houston” . article. photo (Fox News)
- “Space shuttle replica docks in Houston lake docks in Houston lake, launches Shuttlebration” article and photos Explorer arrives at JSC.
- “Space shuttle Explorer replica arrives in Galveston” – VIDEO. A few repairs and a little rest before heading to JSC (ABC News)