Forty-five years after it made its public debut, NASA's space shuttle Enterprise is being rolled out again, this time as a rollerball pen.
Retro 51 on Tuesday (Sept. 21) announced its new Space Shuttle Enterprise Tornado, the latest in its line of collectible writing instruments. The limited edition pen extends a collaboration that since 2019 has inspired some of the Retro 51's space-themed designs while supporting the next generation of explorers.
"We are excited to announce that Retro 51 and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation have partnered again to honor those who continue to reach for the stars with the Space Shuttle Enterprise Tornado," the pen company said.
Enterprise, or OV-101, was NASA's first prototype winged orbiter. On Sept. 17, 1976, NASA rolled out Enterprise from its assembly plant in Palmdale, California. Named in response to a letter writing campaign by Star Trek fans, the creator and cast members from the TV series were there to see the "predecessor" to their (fictional) Starship Enterprise become reality.
Although never to fly into space, Enterprise, the shuttle orbiter, was instrumental in making sure that the facilities used to launch its sister ships were ready and that the vehicles were capable of safely returning from space as an unpowered glider.
"The test flights with the space shuttle Enterprise provided several important benefits to the overall space shuttle program," said Fred Haise, who after flying on Apollo 13 was one of two commanders of Enterprise's approach and landing tests in 1977.
The flights off the back of a Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft helped with "early identification of problems and maturing of the challenging new multi-computer digital system," said Haise. "They [also] served to generate positive NASA media during the gap [in flights] between Apollo-Soyuz and the delayed first [shuttle] orbital mission."
The space shuttle Enterprise and future space shuttle missions re-ignited the country's passion for space travel and inspired a new generation. Today, the Enterprise orbiter is on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.
The Retro 51 Space Shuttle Enterprise Tornado recreates the look of the iconic orbiter with graphics printed on the pen's stainless steel barrel, protected by a gloss varnish and finished with black nickel accents. Each Enterprise Tornado is engraved with a limited edition number in a series of 1958 for the year that NASA was founded.
The top disc features the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's logo. The pen ships in a graphic commemorative tube.
Sales of the Retro 51 Space Shuttle Enterprise Tornado began on Tuesday (Sept. 21) at noon EDT (1600 GMT) through the company's U.S. retailers and select international distributors. The pen retails for $60 each.
In addition, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation will be selling the pen through its online store packaged together with an autographed print by Haise for $200.
The Space Shuttle Enterprise is the latest space-themed Tornado to be offered by Retro 51. Past releases have included pens that resemble the Mercury-Redstone, Gemini-Titan and Apollo-Saturn V rockets, a Hubble Space Telescope pen, a special limited edition pen for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and a Space Shuttle Discovery Tornado in partnership with the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
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