Untapped Cities writer Suraj Patel shares with us his experience of hanging out with the Space Shuttle Enterprise at JFK Hangar 17, before it gets transported to its final home at the Intrepid. How did he get there? On official government business, so don’t try this yourself.  

No matter how old you get, the Space Shuttle is still cool. Even as a kid, I remember playing playing on the swing with my brother taking turns jumping off from the highest point to nail a landing like “Endeavor” or “Atlantis.” Even though, the Shuttle Program was notoriously inefficient and expensive compared with traditional rockets, it stood for 30 years as an important symbol of America’s forward-thinking vision.

In person, perched atop a Boeing 747 at Hangar 17 at JFK, the Shuttle still has a distinct 1970s feel. Everything from the Helvetica-typefaced “Enterprise” name to the slightly off-white color brings you back to an era when microwaves and Tang were a source of pride for a nation that finally came into its own. Walking around the shuttle, you notice the ceramic discs you learned about in high school to keep the shuttle from burning up, but you also notice the mechanical hinges and dated NASA logo with the cross line missing from the “A’s.”

I’m going to venture to say that every kid for the last 40 years has at least once, dreamt of being an astronaut. For America and its youth, the Shuttle was a symbol that even the sky wasn’t the limit. Some things cannot be measured by economic analysis alone. The Shuttle program may have been costly, but it’s value to a young nation cannot be overstated. I hope Washington understands that the country needs new symbols to keep us dreaming or else we will be relegated to viewing our past, parked in hangars and museums.

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