Museums Vie to House Space Shuttles

Florida in the running for a retiring orbiter, but there are no guarantees it will land one
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: August 28, 2010 4:05 AM

Discovery Shuttle

NASA has promised the shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Credit: NASA

A new space race is under way -- to house NASA's retiring space shuttles.

Twenty venues around the nation are vying to be the final resting place for three shuttle craft.

The Kennedy Space Center figures it has as good a shot as anyone. After all, all 132 shuttle missions were launched from the Cape.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a former astronaut, is lobbying vigorously for the Sunshine State. And Bill Moore, chief operating officer of KSC's visitor center, says his engineers can design the best exhibit.

"A shuttle's not something that should be displayed on three wheels on concrete," Moore told the Wall Street Journal, suggesting KSC would show its shuttle as it operates in space.

But the selection process -- which is heated and could become political, with congressional involvement looming on the horizon -- won't necessarily favor Florida as lobbyists from California to New York launch their campaigns.

NASA has already guaranteed the shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The fleet's oldest shuttle, Discovery, will replace the cannibalized shuttle Enterprise, which resides at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center adjacent to Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

To qualify for a shot at housing the two other active shuttles, Atlantis and Endeavor, or the displaced Enterprise, each applicant must have $28.8 million to pay for shipping and handling.

Logistically speaking, the move requires a nearby runway that can accommodate a jumbo jet, and the ability to haul the shuttle to its destination without dismantling it.

Also, only indoor, climate-controlled venues are being considered. "(The shuttles) leak like a sieve," Dennis Jenkins, a longtime shuttle observer, told the Journal.

Among Florida's stiffest competitors are museums in Texas, home to mission control, and Dayton, Ohio, home of the National Museum of the Air Force and the Wright brothers.

New York City argues that it can draw the biggest crowds, while three museums in California say that they deserve the inside track because many shuttle missions landed there.

Chicago's Adler Museum entered the sweepstakes, noting that the Windy City is the largest urban center in the Midwest. Seattle, Huntsville, Ala., and McMinnville, Ore., are also in the mix, touting their aerospace and aviation roots.

With the last shuttle flight scheduled for next year, NASA has not set a timeline for site selection. But the maneuvering on Capitol Hill is well under way.

Members of Congress from Texas and Florida reportedly tried to slip a measure in a NASA bill that would give preference to communities with a "historical relationship with either the launch, flight operations or processing" of shuttles. That language was stripped out of the House bill.


Contact Kenric Ward at or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (2)

4:02PM OCT 18TH 2011
There are plenty of information about this topic in the net & some are definitely better than others.
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Phil Payette
8:58AM AUG 28TH 2010
There are certainly logical choices in determining the future homes of the orbiters. If NASA can promise one orbiter to someone, they can promise the others as well if they see the same logic I perceive. Every air and space museum in the country obviously wants one, and obviously can't get one. So my choices, if this were left for me to decide, would be at locations were the public would most expect to see a shuttle.
Even though there are two fake shuttles already in Florida - one at KSC, the other at the adjacent Space Camp (both on wheels and outdoors) it still seems prudent to display a real one. I would select the Atlantis, just because of the name. Atlantis on the West Coast just doesn't seem right.
The Discovery going to the Smithsonian near DC is written in stone. Isn't the Smithsonian all about discovery anyway?
The Enterprise should be relocated to southern California. The Shuttle program was born there, and the Trekkies all love her. Hollywood would love it, too.
Huntsville is an impressive place with two Saturn V rockets, and another fake shuttle (this one with boosters & ET). But do they really need another Shuttle? They'll survive without it.
Who wouldn't be awe-struck by the sight of a shuttle on the deck of the USS Intrepid in New York City? I would certainly take lots of pictures. But unfortunately this would be an outdoor display and NASA has made it clear that the shuttles must be indoors.
So now I've ruled out two great choices. The only other place in America where the mass public goes to experience anything NASA is Houston. Even though there are several shuttle trainers there at the facility that could become great museum pieces, it still seems silly to me not to have an actual shuttle there. Place the Endeavor here. The folks at Mission Control deserve it. They work very hard leading the way on humankind's endeavor to reach for the stars.

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