Well, NASA made the announcement about where the remaining space shuttle orbiters are going to end up. It’s been a long wait, they’ve been discussing this for somewhere around two years now. The results are:
Discovery is going to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. She’s the oldest orbiter, and has flown the most of any of them. I think this is a good decision, as she will have a huge number of people visit, and she is a worthy companion to the Write Flyer, Spirit of Saint Louis, the Apollo 11 CM and SpaceShip One.
Atlantis will be staying in Florida, at KSC. Again, I think this is a good decision. The space center museums and displays here are great, especially the Saturn V center, with a full Saturn V rocket and many other artifacts from the space program over the years. Also, I think this may save some time and money with the whole shuttle program shutdown. Atlantis will be the last orbiter to fly, so any equipment needed to transfer her to her final resting place will need to be kept ready for when she’s been all cleaned up. This way, after Endeavour, Discovery and Enterprise have been moved, they can retire all that extra equipment earlier than if they had to also wait to move Atlantis across the country, instead of down the road.
Endeavour will be moving to the California Science Center. Also a good move, as this is only about 100 miles from the shuttle landing strip at NASA Dryden, and just down the road from where the orbiters were designed and built. While it would be nice, I don’t think they’ll be able to save time by just landing Endeavour out there and wheeling her right over to the museum. She’ll have to spend a lot of time back at KSC, getting all clean and pretty first.
Enterprise, the vehicle that was used to fly the landing tests for the shuttle program back in the 70’s but has never been into space, has been at the Smithsonian these last few decades. She is going to be moved to the Intrepid Air and Space museum in New York City. Again, I think this is a pretty good choice. This museum is one I really want to stop at next time I’m up there. They have a whole aircraft carrier, and a bunch of aircraft. It’s also located in the US’s biggest and most famous city, sure to draw huge crowds of visitors.
There are the usual numbers of people complaining about the decisions, because they didn’t get what they wanted. Whatever, I think these were all very good choice. A lot of people have wondered why Houston didn’t get one, considering all the astronauts live there, Mission Control is there, etc. Well, I have to say, having visited the Space Center Houston, it was a good choice. The place has very few artifacts, not a whole lot of good museum quality displays, and has only decided to put their huge Saturn V rocket under an open air shed in the last decade or so.
Various other artifacts and shuttle flight simulators are going to museums around the country, so there should be plenty of opportunities to see some of this cool stuff. I have to say, it’s nice knowing that I made some small contribution to this huge, three decade long program. Here’s to hoping the next program accomplishes even more.