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On Saturday, the USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the world’s largest warship, will be retired. After almost exactly 51 years of service, she will be “inactivated“, the stage prior to formal decommissioning, at a ceremony expected to attract 15,000 guests. The great ship is already being stripped of all usable equipment, and will then be cut open to extract the eight nuclear reactors.

Having missed seeing Sinatra or Bill Monroe before their deaths, I was determined to see the Enterprise before she sails to the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns. So I drove to Norfolk this week and toured the ship this week, sat in the captain’s chair on the bridge (naturally), spent some time talking with assorted sailors (quite a few of them Star Trek fans). There were lots of Enterprise veterans in town for the ceremony, and a time capsule was set up for them to submit notes or mementos to be presented to the next Enterprise, the ninth in our fleet that would bear that name.

Maybe I’ve been reading too much Roman history, but the time capsule added a melancholy

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