If you ever doubt that we are all mere specks in a vast universe, visit the Intrepid Museum. The enormity of things you see will make you feel positively puny.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum includes the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the space shuttle Enterprise, and the world’s fastest jets. Our knowledgeable guide, Ron Guggenheim, took us on a journey filled with wonderful anecdotes.
On Pier 86, we saw the British Airways Concorde which flew at twice the speed of sound and holds the world record for fastest transatlantic crossings. An oilman took three Concorde flights in one day to get a contract signed!
Our next stop, Intrepid, a National Historic Landmark, was built from 1941-1943 for the sole purpose of defeating the Japanese in World War II. The ship is humongous: 912 feet long by140 feet wide. While on duty, it launched planes 18-20 hours a day.
It was also used in the Vietnam War, but by 1974 was considered too old, and was scheduled to be demolished. Zachary Fisher, one of Manhattan’s real estate elite, spent 25 million dollars to keep Intrepid alive. The Museum opened in 1982.
A Lego model of Intrepid is a favorite with children. The model took two years to build while the ship took just seventeen months! The Exploreum is a hands-on zone where kids can feel what it’s like to fly planes. Operation Slumber lets boy and girl scouts bring sleeping bags and stay overnight.
There is profound honor and respect for those who lost their lives. A Memorial Wall lists 270 crewmembers who died from 1943 to 1974. The Anchor Chain Room has video clips with World War II Intrepid survivors telling their emotional stories.
On the ship’s top deck are more than two dozen authentically restored airplanes including The Shark, one of the fastest jet planes ever built, and the F-14A Tomcat, the plane in Top Gun. When asked who the hero of the movie is, women say “Tom Cruise” and men say “the F-14A.”
Our last stop? The Space Shuttle Pavilion featuring the 1976 Enterprise, NASA’s first space shuttle. Weighing in at 150,000 pounds, it is 138 feet long and one of only four space shuttles in the world. Ron spoke of an intriguing future for space travel in 20 or 30 years: Instead of vacationing in the Poconos, “Your grandchildren will be able to book a hotel room in outer space!”
To visit the museum, go to intrepidmuseum.com or call 1-646-381-5061.