The wait is over.
At a ceremony today honoring the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden finally revealed which museums around the country are going to get retired shuttles to put on display.
Without further adieu, the winners are:
- Enterprise: Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, New York City
- Discovery: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia
- Endeavour: California Science Center, Los Angeles, California
- Atlantis: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Anticipating high interest, NASA had issued a request for information back in December 2008 asking “education institutions, science museums and other appropriate organizations” to make the case why they should get one of the four orbiters up for grabs.
The kicker is that NASA requires each organization that gets a shuttle to front $28.8 million U.S. to cover the costs of cleaning and transporting retired orbiters.
In total the agency received 21 replies, and although the full list remains confidential, several institutions made their bids public—including a media smack-down between the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and the Intrepid Museum in NYC.
Currently the only shuttle on display is the Enterprise (picture), a prototype orbiter that went on test flights within Earth’s atmosphere but never made it into space. That shuttle already makes its home at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
Still, the Air and Space Museum had made it clear in their bid to NASA that they *really* wanted the space shuttle Discovery, also known as the workhorse of the shuttle program. In exchange they’d swap out the Enterprise, putting that orbiter up for grabs.
Discovery had completed its final flight by the time Bolden made his decisions, and it’s already being dismantled for cleaning and preparation for display.
Due to the tragic losses of Challenger and Columbia, the other shuttles waiting for retirement are Endeavour, which should fly its last mission at the end of this month, and Atlantis, which is being prepped for a probable final mission in June.
Amid cheers and tears during today’s announcement, Bolden told the crowd that organizations that didn’t get an orbiter “will receive significant shuttle hardware and artifacts.”
As for those lucky four that did, “take good care of our vehicles,” he said. “They’ve served the nation well, and we at NASA have a deep and abiding relationship and love affair with them that’s hard to put into words.”