Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Competition For Displaying Retiring Space Shuttles In Home Stretch

NASA is expected to announce the three museums that will have the honor of displaying one of the three surviving space shuttles on April 12, which is the 30th anniversary of the first flight by a shuttle (Columbia) into space.

The Intrepid Sea Air Space museum is among the hopefuls, and they've got an online petition with more than 150,000 signatures. Others include the Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, the Museum of Flight, the US Air Force Museum, and California Science Center in Los Angeles. 21 organizations have submitted applications, so there are going to be a lot of disappointed museum curators and space aficionados around the nation.

Key to any bid is that the winning museums must provide a climate controlled environment for the shuttle as well as other educational displays. NASA doesn't want to repeat the mistakes it made with its displays of Apollo equipment, which was left exposed to the elements and caused significant corrosion and decay.

For the Intrepid, this would mean building an enclosure on Pier 86 adjacent to the aircraft carrier and its exhibition of aircraft and spacecraft. This is a view of the Intrepid's mockup of a shuttle on display at Pier 86:

It's expected that Discovery will end up at the Smithsonian, which means that the two remaining shuttles - Endeavor and Atlantis will split between the remaining 20 sites. Each of the winning bids will have to provide nearly $30 million to NASA for preparing the shuttles for public display, including decontamination of propellant and other changes.

Another aspect that NASA will take into account is the number of people who would visit the shuttles, and gain exposure to the shuttle program, space exploration, and be inspired by such exposure in the future.

The Intrepid site would be an ideal platform, with millions of school kids in the NYC metro area, the largest tourist destination in the US, and a central location in Manhattan.

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