In a selection process reminiscent of the bidding for an Olympic host city, NASA on Tuesday announced the new retirement homes for the four remaining space shuttles, which have been carrying astronauts into space for three decades. The space shuttle Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, which observers agreed was a shoe in for such a bid. The Discovery, which completed its final flight last month, is headed to the Smithsonian, for display at the spacious Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport. The Endeavour, currently on the launching pad for its final space flight, will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The Enterprise, which never went into space but was used as the shuttle program’s glide test vehicle, will be moved from the Smithsonian to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.
NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. announced the selections during a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center. The announcement came on the 30th anniversary of the space shuttle program’s first flight, made by the Columbia orbiter, which was lost in an explosion during reentry in 2003. The shuttle Challenger was the other lost orbiter, which was destroyed in an explosion in January 1986. More than 20 locations around the country had sought one of the coveted orbiters because of the potential tourist draw.
The fact that NASA snubbed Houston in favor of New York City in the bid for one of the shuttles has sparked controversy in Texas and the nation at large. A Congressional representative from Utah, Jason Chaffetz (R), sponsored a bipartisan bill on Thursday attempting to reverse the decision.