The Day The Space Shuttle Came To London

M@
By M@ Last edited 22 months ago
The Day The Space Shuttle Came To London
Image by StuartAxe and used with permission.
Image by StuartAxe and used with permission.
Image by Stuart Axe and used with permission.
Image by Stuart Axe and used with permission.
Image by StuartAxe and used with permission.
Image by StuartAxe and used with permission.
Not your usual airport shuttle. Image by Stuart Axe and used with permission.
Not your usual airport shuttle. Image by Stuart Axe and used with permission.
Enterprise coming in to land. Image by Suggs and used with permission.
Enterprise coming in to land. Image by Suggs and used with permission.
Image by StuartAxe and used with permission.
Image by StuartAxe and used with permission.
The shuttle, piggybacking on a modified Boeing 747, flies over Windsor Castle and Slough, home of the great Uranus-discovering astronomer William Herschel. Image by Chimemark and used with permission.
The shuttle, piggybacking on a modified Boeing 747, flies over Windsor Castle and Slough, home of the great Uranus-discovering astronomer William Herschel. Image by Chimemark and used with permission.

On 5 June 1983, space shuttle Enterprise touched down at Stansted airport as part of a European tour that also took in Germany, France and Italy. Crowds of 200,000 people turned out to watch the unique spectacle, while many more watched the flight over west and north London (pic of the aircraft over Heathrow). Unfortunately, bad weather forced the cancellation of a Thames flyover. We can only assume that the tabloid press ran with headlines of 'Euston, we have a problem'.

Although it flew several unaided atmospheric flights, and here crossed the Atlantic atop a modified 747, STS Enterprise never flew into orbit. It was designed as a test vehicle to demonstrate that the spaceship could manoeuvre and land like a conventional aircraft. It was named after the famous command of Captain James T. Kirk, following a vigorous campaign by Star Trek fans.

Further still images of the landing can be seen in the video below, and in this Flickr set.

Long-term readers may remember our successful April Fool's joke inspired by the shuttle-747 configuration.

Last Updated 03 June 2016

BraveNewMalden

I saw it.

I was having a typical 80's style boozy ad-agency lunch at the Dove in Hammersmith, and watched it fly over.

Had not all my mates seen it too, I'd have blamed it on the London Pride.

EastRiver

While Enterprise is in the Smithsonian collection it is not at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. It is at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, adjacent to Dulles International Airport and about 30 miles west of Washington. The center is also home to the Enola Gay and will be home to the Shuttle Discovery upon its retirement.

Joanna

I was at Stansted too! I've got some very similar photos and will have to look for them tomorrow. Am glad I can't spot myself in 1980s clothes though!

Guest

Such a shame that the Shuttle is about to come to an end.

LizofLewes

I saw it too.  Are you sure the Thames flyover was cancelled as I definitely remember watching it from either Richmond or Twickenham bridge and know my parents took me to the Thames on purpose.

mike iavelli

It made a low altitude flight over my little hometown near Montréal, Canada on its return flight. I was 8 years old and it was an amazing sight. After all those years I can still picture it clearly in my mind. 

I found someone who posted a picture from that day: http://www.woophy.com/download...

Tonyj144

We saw in while waiting for a train at new cross.

Teabloke

At Liz of Lewes - It definitely flew over London on route to Stansted.  I watched it pass over Tower Bridge.

Ilovethe80s

I was with all my mates on BMX's on a walkway, south side of the Thames in Battersea near St Mary's church, when all these photographers turned up. We asked what was going on and they told us the space shuttle was going to fly over. sure enough 20 minutes later it did and right over our heads. Amazing site to see, but knowone ever believes me because I don't have photographic proof. I think I was 10 or 11 at the time.

Elliot

I was at Stansted when the 747 arrived with the Enterprise. The shutters of cameras taking pics sounded like applause. It was a great experience but Star Trek fans were disgusted when the hired band played the Star Wars theme instead of Star Trek!

Alan F

It did fly up the Thames that Sunday about 2 hours late as I was on Putney Bridge waiting and saw it. The only downer was the idiots who dropped flash bangs off the bridge narrowly missing a boat passing under. (Probably from Chelsea Barracks!?)