Space Shuttle Enterprise in Antelope Valley, 1977
From the Los Angeles Times, February 1, 1977:
“When the Enterprise was moved on Jan. 31, 1977, Times staff writer Nieson Himmel reported:
‘The giant space shuttle orbiter vehicle Enterprise, first of five vehicles that will serve as the “freight trucks” of space, made its first trip at an average speed of 3.5 m.p.h. Monday. The half-spaceship, half-airplane crept through the streets of Palmdale and Lancaster as large crowds assembled at major intersections. The parade-like atmosphere was aided by the presence of several hundred schoolchildren who had been released from school for the occasion. Lines, poles and traffic signals had been cleared from the way to provide clearance for the orbiter, which towered nearly 60 feet on its trailer. The orbiter was towed by a truck tractor that had 52 forward gears. Its total length with the truck was 157 feet, and its weight overall was 220,000 pounds. The entire assemblage was mounted on 90 tires. It took eight hours and 35 minutes for the 36-mile trip from Rockwell International’s orbital assembly plant at Palmdale to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s research center at Edwards Air Force Base. A special road had to be built through the base to enable the spacecraft to reach the runways.'”
All of NASA’s orbiters originated from the former Rockwell plant (now owned by Boeing) in Palmdale, CA. Between 1977 and 1985, the orbiters were towed through Palmdale, Lancaster, and even to Santa Barbara to various air force bases in the region for flight tests.
Enterprise was NASA’s first space orbiter, built initially as a prototype. As the shuttle program progressed, Enterprise‘s planned retrofit was discarded and the orbiter was used only for atmospheric test flights. A letter-writing campaign initiated by Star Trek fans reportedly influenced President Gerald Ford to settle on the name Enterprise, after the namesake starship on the show, over the other name up for consideration, Constitution. Like Endeavour, the fifth and last shuttle built by NASA and now on view at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, Enterprise was decommissioned in 1985, and finally transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York in 2012.
Source: Los Angeles Times; image courtesy of Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library.