Where the Shuttles will come to rest

By Phil Plait | April 13, 2011 12:00 pm

The other day I posted a link to pictures of the Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery being cleaned and prepped after its final voyage, so that it can be sent to a museum for public display… and now we know where. NASA just announced where all the Orbiters will have their final wheels-down:

  • Enterprise will be at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City;
  • Discovery will end up at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia (it’s an annex for the National Air and Space Museum);
  • Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles;
  • and finally

  • Atlantis will be at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

I think these are good choices in general, though the Intrepid museum in NYC is a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s a floating museum on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, and it does have quite a collection of interesting displays including an A-12, the predecessor of the SR-71 Blackbird (you might remember seeing Will Smith golf off the Intrepid in the movie "I Am Legend"). And while the museum does get a lot of visitors, I’m wondering why the Johnson Space Center in Houston didn’t get an Orbiter. That seems like a more natural choice, especially given that three of the Orbiters wound up on the east coast.

Still and all, I’m glad NASA decided to send them to various places where people will get a chance to see them. I don’t get to DC very often, but next time I do I think I’ll make a side trip to Chantilly. I saw Discovery launch in 1997, headed for Hubble and carrying a camera I worked on. It’ll be nice — if bittersweet — to see it again.

Image credit: NASA

MORE ABOUT: Space Shuttle

Comments (118)

  1. Jason

    I can tell you the attitude here in Houston is not a happy one. The general consensus is that it is a slap in face. Don’t the astronauts live and train here? Don’t their families live here? Seems to be yet another example of political favors trumping logic and good judgement.

  2. Raymond Lang

    I’ll admit that Houston not getting one has been getting a lot of flack down here (I work just a short distance from the JSC for a company involved in the space program), but with the exception of New York City, I can understand why the shuttles were sent there. The Smithsonian certainly deserves a real shuttle as opposed to the test model, and Kennedy Space Center is the center of where the shuttle program always was. But when asked about Los Angeles and why they’re getting one, all I can think of for a reply is history. The shuttles were built in Southern California, and that region of the country has always been involved in rocketry and space travel development (Jet Propulsion Lab, Rocketdyne, Edwards AFB among others). Nearly every rocket design and launch system can be traced back to that area of the country in some fashion (John Clark’s “Ignition!” being a good source of information about those early days).

    Still, from a historical perspective, the choices were good ones (except for New York City… still puzzled at why they’re getting Enterprise, other than possible tourism reasons.)

  3. Yojimbo

    Disappointed that the Museum of Flight in Seattle didn’t get one. It is a little bit small but a fine collection, and a shuttle would have been right at home. Ah well – they tried. So it goes…

  4. Mikey Cooper

    “And while the museum does get a lot of visitors, I’m wondering why the Johnson Space Center in Houston didn’t get an Orbiter.”

    Man, you and everyone else. NYC makes no sense.

  5. Another Josh

    On one trip to the Udvar-Hazy Center a few years back, we noticed workers setting up TV screens around the Enterprise display. I’d completely forgotten that there was a shuttle launch that day (Atlantis, I think) and they were setting it up so visitors could watch the NASA TV feed there in the museum. It was like being back in grade school, everyone sitting on the floor watching the launch except it was right there in front of Enterprise. I think I enjoyed it more than the nephews (ages 9 and 12) did.

  6. Gus Snarp

    I consider the decision to send Enterprise to New York to be more than a head scratcher, it’s a travesty. I would have loved to see it come to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH, just because that’s good for me. I wouldn’t have minded Houston, although that would mean NASA keeping two. But New York is just wrong. The Smithsonian and Kennedy (or Johnson) were no-brainers, and putting one on the West Coast makes sense, but one of them should have gone somewhere that wasn’t on the coast. Now the East Coast has 3, the West Coast 1, and the rest of the county 0. And that seems wrong to me. Again, I’m biased in favor of Dayton, but it’s a pretty population central location. But just about any place no on the east or west coast would be better. Two orbiters will now live a half day’s drive from each other, while most of the country is at least a two day drive from seeing one. I don’t know what criteria they chose on, but it certainly wasn’t based on what would best serve the American people.

  7. Bob in Easton

    I was surprised by New York too, but the top tourist destination in the US is New York for both foreign and domestic tourists. In fact the top tourist destination in all the US is Times Square..not that long of a walk from the Intrepid.

  8. Paul

    Houston deserved a shuttle, period. Houston (the Clear Lake area specifically) gave it’s heart and blood to the shuttle program and everything before it. Charlie Bolden lived in Houston and knows this. He’s sold us out.

    It’s clear that Houston didn’t get a shuttle due to politics. The fact that the president didn’t win Texas should not have been a factor.

  9. Zombie

    Seattle’s apparently getting the training mockup.

  10. Yojimbo

    @6 Really? Had not heard that – well, its something :)

  11. Richard

    Would it have been nice for Houston to get a shuttle? Yes. But far more people will see the shuttle in New York, and that’s really the point of sending them to museums. It’s a tremendous opportunity to educate people, and that means getting it to as many people as possible.

  12. Hopefully, they will generously spread around some of the other shuttle artifacts. We have the Pima Air and Space Museum here in Tucson and I think one of the 747s used to transport the shuttles would find a nice home here.

  13. Tony

    Chicago’s Adler Planetarium is apparently getting one of the training simulators (three story build of the crew compartments). Personally, I think thats pretty cool. I don’t know if they will let anyone actually *inside* one of the orbiters (probably not), but the simulator might be a different story.

  14. ASFalcon13

    Phil, you fell victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “the big black aircraft on the flight deck of the USS Intrepid is an A-12, a precursor to the SR-71, but not itself an SR-71”!


  15. Gus Snarp


    The fact that the president didn’t win Texas should not have been a factor.

    Really? As much as there may be wrong with this decision process, you really think that there was some kind of political machination to punish Texas by not sending an orbiter there? Really? Even if politics played that strong a role, it would make no sense. Why punish a state that never had a chance of going to Obama while failing to say, reward a valuable swing state that did, like Ohio?

  16. Of course living in Chicago I’m disappointed the Adler Planetarium didn’t get one. My strongest argument is that they seem to be going to the coasts, and having one in Chicago would be a way for Midwesterners to be able to see a real shuttle without having to travel so far.

    I am happy about the simulator, though. (Especially if we get to go inside!)

  17. Roy

    I agree with Gus–the middle of the country got hosed. NYC is not *that* far from DC. Sure a lot of people will see it there, but it’s not like Houston is a small town and there’s something to be said for trying to draw tourists to a place they might not otherwise go. Plus it’s the home of the space shuttle program–astronaut training, mission control, etc. This is probably the first time I’ve ever agreed with John Cornyn about anything–it feels like a politically motivated decision to put one in NYC and one in LA.

    I live in CT, so I’m certainly not geographically biased. I could be at the Intrepid museum before most of y’all will read this post. But I could be in DC in 6 hours too, and that’s a lot closer than most folks will be to one of the Shuttles.

    Phil: I worked on the Chandra X-ray Observatory before (and after) launch, so I’ll never have a chance to see the bird that lofted her into orbit again. RIP Columbia and crew.

  18. Raymond Lang

    @8 – I live here in Clear Lake, and I don’t think the decisions were politically based. I think that they were based on a number of factors, including history of involvement with the shuttle program, tourism potential and other issues. Yes, it would have been nice to have a Shuttle down here at the JSC, but from stories I’ve heard about the existing facility, they seriously need to upgrade/update what they have now.

  19. I figured (and hoped!) that KSC would get one. It makes almost no sense that JSC didn’t get one. I mean they have a Saturn V, mission control is there, they train there and so on. It would just make more sense.

    Well I hope they do something spectacular with them. Just placing them in a building would be great to see but they need to build something around them. Perhaps put each one in a specific orientation that mimics a real mission. Even better and more daunting would be a replicated full stack housed in a large building with multiple levels for viewers to get a sense of what the crews would see at the pad. Hey, I can dream right? :)

  20. Jeremy H

    I’ll add to the chorus of “why NY instead of Houston?” All the other placements are ideal. Clearly the Smothsonian needs a “real” shuttle, clearly KSC makes worlds of sense, and clearly there should be one out on the west coast. The center of the country got screwed on this one, though, and Houston would have been such a logical place for Enterprise.

  21. KEA

    Well, Texas is planning on seceding, right?

  22. Timmy

    Low Earth orbit? Pssssshh. How about the moon!
    I wanted to plug the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. They have a great museum display about the Apollo program. Unfortunately, that’s all they have. Space Camp is as good as dead, and the rest of the center is a dump, but you really, really need to see the Apollo building!
    If you ever are forced to travel to that area, spend an afternoon there!

  23. Paul


    I grew up in the Clear Lake area. I graduated from Clear Lake High School. My friend’s parents were astronauts. I worked for NASA contractors for the first 15 years of my career, mostly in the Clear Lake area. And I know Charlie Bolden since his wife and my mother were real estate agents together. (And he’s a fine man, as good a man as I’ve ever met.) Why would you NOT put an important piece of NASA history in the historic home of the space program? And the Clear Lake area is the home of the space program.

    Admittedly, I have nothing specific that says it was a political decision. But nothing else makes any sense. New York City? Really? What does New York City have to do with spaceflight? This smells of politics to me.

    But I could be wrong. And it wouldn’t be the first time (today, even).

  24. Mike

    I’ve been to the Udvar-Hazy a number of times now, spending hours each time. If you are even remotely interested in flight it’s an absolutely must-go if you are anywhere remotely nearby.

  25. I figured that Houstond didn’t get it because of the Texas BOE stance on science. There SHOULD be consequences for promoting stupidity. The Texas governor should get a nicely, but sternly, worded letter from NASA telling him that it’s all his fault, and if anyone wants to send an angry mob with torches and pitchforks to NASA, they will be directing them straigh to the governor’s mansion.

    At least, that’s how I would handle it! 😀

  26. Tamas

    1) As a resident of Los Angeles, I have nothing but praise for this distribution of the orbiters 😉 Looking forward to checking out Endeavor on opening weekend.

    2) For what it’s worth, Johnson Space Center does have a shuttle on permanent display, built into the wall of the center and everything — I know it’s not a actual fleet shuttle, but to dismantle that display in favor of a new one would probably cost more money than parking an orbiter on any of the other locations. I think this must be at least part of the reason for the decision not to send one there.

  27. Richard


    New York City is the single most visited city in the country. That’s why it gets a shuttle.

  28. Tyler

    Very disappointed that economic development was not taken into consideration and, as so often happens, the coasts win. Here in Ohio, having one of the shuttles in Dayton would have brought visitors to an economically struggling area, as well as adding jobs. Also disappointed to see that none ended up in Houston. Making Dayton a shuttle tire graveyard, by the way, is not at all a consolation.

  29. Ed

    Isn’t the point of putting the shuttles in museums so that people will see them? More people will see the Enterprise in a year in NYC than in a decade if it were sitting in Houston. Regarding the East Coast/West Coast issue, how about North/South? NASA put all of its centers in the South (except for Glenn in Cleveland, which was there before NASA existed), and they wondered why political support around the country for growing the space program was weak? I can’t say there wasn’t any politics involved with Houston not getting a shuttle, but I know that putting the Johnson Space Center in Houston was based on nothing but politics; NASA could have put it anywhere. Win some; lose some–that’s the nature of politics. Finally, do we really want to turn JSC into a museum? Except for the ISS, it’s going to be pretty quiet at JSC as it is. If it wasn’t going to be New York, Chicago would have been a much better choice than Houston.

  30. @Tyler, Dayton already has a premiere Air and Space museum (USAF Museum). No one goes to Dayton because it IS Dayton… 😛

  31. The Beer

    I agree with the NYC crowd. And I am completely biased since I live in NJ.

    It would be nice to see the reasons they decided on the particular areas but those documents are probably sealed for 50 years!

  32. Gus Snarp

    @Larian – No one goes to Dayton because no one outside the area and a few hard core aviation buffs knows it has a premiere Air and Space museum. Getting an orbiter would have been great publicity, and the definition of “premiere” changes a notch when you add a shuttle.

  33. Bob Portnell

    Seems to me that NASA could only “keep” one orbiter. So for that orbiter, think of it as only NASA facilities competing. The advantages of the KSC Visitor Center (near Orlando tourist mecca, quality site plan, and extremely cheap transport-to-site costs — no 747 required!) would pretty much eliminate any other NASA contender. No politics need be applied.

    I have to agree with many that sending Enterprise to the Intrepid is a puzzlement. But, then again, the Intrepid has a long history of its own with NASA, and it’d only be a short hop from DC to NY, then (I suppose) onto a barge for delivery to Pier 86. That minimizes expenses and also protects the Enterprise vehicle from the risks of a longer trip. Also, fund-raising for the project will be (relatively) easy for all the host sites.

  34. gdave

    While it seems broadly plausible that politics, in the form of rewarding political allies, might have played a role in distributing the orbiters, I’d personally like to see some, you know, actual evidence of that before concluding a political conspiracy directed the distribution. The idea that Texas is being “punished” by not placing an orbiter at the JSC is just silly.

    The fact is, NASA is keeping one of the four available orbiters, and distributing the other three to other institutions around the country, which makes sense. NASA understandably decided not to keep half of the orbiters for itself, but to distribute a very limited number as widely as possible. Given that, the question isn’t “Why NYC over Houston?” but “Why KSC over JSC?” If anyone wants to make a case for JSC, it should be in terms of why JSC is more deserving that KSC.

    As for the choice of the Intrepid museum by itself, as many have already pointed out, NYC is a MAJOR tourist destination – a major global destination, at that. I think NASA wants the orbiters not just to be available to the American people, but to the peoples of the world. Putting one in NYC and one in LA certainly makes sense for that.

    And, again, given the limited number, giving a third to the Smithsonian is a no-brainer, and, again, you are left with deciding which one NASA facility gets the last one.

    BTW, hadn’t heard that Adler had gotten one of the simulators. MSI would have seemed more logical to me, but I’m glad for Adler.

  35. artbot

    Really bummed we didn’t get one here in Seattle, but L.A. makes (some) sense if you’re going to have one on the west coast (though LA has a bit of a middling aerospace museum, considering the rich aviation history of the area).

    Yeah, Houston got screwed, but NASA had very rigid criteria for the shuttles, so perhaps it just came down to the nuts & bolts (& money) of what each city had to offer. Like it or not, LA & NYC are huge tourist destinations and are pretty good choices. Honestly, not many people go to Houston as a vacation destination.

    But I find it odd that it’s apparently NASA’s goal is to educate the most possible people of a defunct (and tremendously flawed) program when there is no program to replace it.

    Tour guide: “If you look on your right, you’ll see one of the few remain space shuttles that ferried astronauts and equipment into orbit for 30 years. But if you’re interested in the space program and want to dedicate your schooling and life to it, better get used to working with robots and learn to speak Russian. This concludes our tour.”

    J/K….sort of.

  36. gss_000

    From the comments, it looks like people think this was a contest for 4 shuttles. It wasn’t.

    The Smithsonian was always going to get Discovery, no question. If people don’t, check out collectSPACE.com from time to time. For years, it has been reporting the plan always was to give Discovery to the Smithsonian with only a question for a time about funding, but that didn’t last long. So really the decision was over the remaining three and it was only recently that centers started talking about Enterprise.

    As for Houston, their “push” came late compared to other cities. Seattle and Ohio had stronger and earlier public efforts. If politics really were involved, you would give the shuttle to Ohio, a battleground state. In fact, what’s really surprising here, is the Defense budget had a line item helping to pay for the shuttle transport going to Ohio. Everyone thought that was a sign of politics, and they got shafted.

  37. Orlando

    As an European, I’m fine with NYC hosting one of the orbiters. It’s easier for us to visit NYC than Houston. Furthermore, I wish I could pay another visit soon!

  38. AliCali

    For those wondering about California, below is a summary of what the senators wrote to the NASA administrators urging the shuttle come to California. This can be found in the press releases under boxer (dot) senate (dot) gov, and is currently on the front page.

    Beginning in 1972, all five shuttle orbitors were fabricated in Downey and assembled in Palmdale (all southern California cities). Each were tested at Edwards Air Force Base (near Palmdale). The Palmdale facility used to be the primary repair depot, and 53 of the 132 shuttle missions landed at Edwards Air Force Base.

    That the shuttles were fabricated here and that we’re the second landing site (mostly due to weather in Florida), there’s a good case for one in California.

  39. Bruce

    One could (if garbed in asbestos) argue that the Houston area got much of the Columbia shuttle.

  40. As a Texas resident, I’m certainly disappointed Houston didn’t get one. I’ll also echo all the others citing that the Midwest got screwed. Even if it hadn’t gone to Houston because KSC already got one, send it up to Chicago. To put two of the shuttles within 5 hours of each other just doesn’t seem fair to the rest of the country.

  41. Charly

    The announcement was extremely disheartening for us here in Houston. There are thousands of people who have supported the Space Shuttle directly through NASA, contractors and the surrounding community. We are home to the astronauts and their families, they are members of our churches, little league and soccer teams. Unfortunately, most have never seen a shuttle other than tv or few times that the Shuttle was ferried from Edwards to KSC. (I do remember keeping my kids up past midnight to see the plasma trail of a landing shuttle.) We have trained astronauts, developed and built hardware that has flown. The closest shuttle to all those who have sacrificed so much is over 1,000 miles away.

  42. Chris

    We aren’t feeling too loved in Chicago. We lost the Olympics, the shuttle and will soon be losing Oprah. While getting the simulator is pretty cool, I can’t stop thinking of the episode of “Community” where they got the space simulator.

  43. Number 6

    @ Jeff and @ Tony….As a fellow Adlerian (Adler planetarium) fan, I was a bit disappointed too…Having one in the Chicagoland area midway between the coasts might’ve been convenient for many visitors. I agree though that a simulator is a good consolation prize.

  44. Remember each site had to make a detailed proposal on how they would display the shuttle, preserve it, and raise the money necessary. I will admit I have not read all the proposals that were submitted (the best I can say is I saw some of the concept art that was posted from some of the sites for their proposed exhibits, but that leaves out LOTS of details. Unfortunately, I can’t find this gallery again…I must not be typing in the right search terms for google.

    KSC is going to build a new $100 million building for its orbiter along with other displays on the shuttle program and it will be displayed “in flight” which looks pretty nifty. It was a no brainer for one to go there.

    It is just possible that the best proposals got the shuttles?

  45. mike I

    well since Building 9 at JSC is pretty much going to have all it’s shuttle mockups scattered to the wind I guess they can build a nice enclosure to hold the two actual flown shuttle seats that we are getting.

    but in all seriousness what is disappointing is the fact that all 3 orbiter displays will probably be static. If I was a museum and spending $24M+ to get one I would let folks walkthrough it. picture if you will a sort of life size 3D cutaway display. folks enter through the side hatch (which will need some mods for handicap accessibility) mid deck lockers half are removed with plexiglass between you and the av bays with either real or representative hardware on the cold plates. then out through the airlock (handicap mods again) to the payload bay walkway with the insulation peeled back to show wire runs, fuel cells and other components in the bay. overhead one of the payload bay door panels open and the radiator plumbing exposed. to the aft bulkhead which has been replaced with plexiglass so folks can see the APUs, MEC and other hardware. then out a access hatch in the aft end of the bay so around the side of the aft compartment and onto a platform extending into the SSME 2 and 3 locations to see more plumbing and overhead the SSME 1. anyway that is how I would display the orbiter with as much of it’s innard shown as possible either with real hardware or mockups.

    for all the money they are spending you could build a mockup for a lot less if all you need is something pretty behind a velvet rope.

  46. Joseph

    @ gdave You beat me to it.

    @ PHIL tsk tsk! more global thinking!

    NYC is a GREAT place to put an orbiter, even if it is one that has not gone to orbit. Yes it is an U.S. craft built for the U.S. space program but they have come to symbolize something greater.

    The shuttles have flown astronauts from many nations around the world. It is not just the tourism aspect of it that must be seen here, though that is undoubtedly a part, it is the world unity aspect! NYC is the home of the U.N. no? It is a choice destination for peoples around the world no? There are people there from nearly every nation on Earth no?

    The shuttles should be placed in the most world accessible points. NYC is probably the closest thing to a world neutral territory that we are likely to have in the foreseeable future where something of as world spanning interest as the shuttles could be placed. L.A. a close second. They are, both of them, world microcosms.

    L.A. and NYC are the two choices that make the MOST sense in that light.

  47. Jeff


    The dayton air museum is the sad loser, because there the public wouldn’t have to pay an admission fee, which I don’t think they should. One lady said they might rotate shuttle locations, I hope.

  48. T-storm

    Can’t the shuttles just fly from one place to another every few years?

    And no matter where they go, NYC, LA, Kennedy, DC, Des Moine, Dayton, Debuque, Oklahoma City and so on, it sure as hell beats what the Russians did with Buran.

  49. One could (if garbed in asbestos) argue that the Houston area got much of the Columbia shuttle.

    The very point I was about to make… though the “one for NASA and the rest for everyone else” theory is probably the right one.

    — Steve

  50. Eric

    As much as I’m sad Seattle didn’t get one, it’s easy to see why the shuttles went where they went: one each to four of the five top tourist destinations in the country (Las Vegas being the fifth). If the mission is to put the shuttles in front of as many people as possible, they have succeeded, and it’s hard to argue that Houston, Dayton, Seattle, Chicago or any other locale would expose more people. It’s sad to see the anger in Houston and Dayton. Sorry, while both have very rich histories in air and space neither draws people to it from afar. Dayton’s USAF museum is outstanding (XB-70! B-36! X-everything!), but it is principally a military museum. KSC getting a shuttle has more to do, I think, with Disney than with being the launch facility.

    In the end it might be better that Seattle got the trainer. The Museum of Flight there is quite possibly the best general air + space museum west of Dulles*, but it’s strength is an educational outreach that is second to none. It’ll do the kids a world of good to be able to get inside the shuttle and actually touch it.

    (*if it hadn’t given two prized artifacts, the airworthy Boeing 707-80 prototype and Boeing 307 Stratoliner, to Udvar-Hazy it’d be the best museum west of the Mall. Soon, though, they’ll have the only Comet in this hemisphere.)

  51. Ben

    Contrary to all the political mumbo-jumbo, which is ridiculous, I fully believe and have heard that JSC did not wind up getting one because of a lack of funds. Their visitors center is not that great.

    Note the fact that all the trainers at JSC are going elsewhere…there must be a reason they did not even get that much.

    This notion that it was for political reasons would make no sense.

  52. kurt_eh

    No fair. I just finished making space for one in my garage!

  53. Steve

    I was at the Udvar-Hazy Center last summer and it’s quite impressive. The Air & Space museum on the Mall is also quite good but limited in scope. You really have to see both to appreciate it.

    Yes, one of the orbiters should go to Houston. Of course, we had two others but……

  54. SNARK

    I think Johnson didn’t get a shuttle because once Texas decides to secede we probably won’t be getting our stuff back, so why put any more of it there?


  55. KC

    NYC makes a lot of sense from a tourism an maximum impact point of view – but still doesn’t seem right that the east coast get 3 the west 1 and the middle none!

    As far as letting people walk through one – yikes. That’s the quickest way to destroy a shuttle. You have no idea how destructive people can be…the humidity alone from sweaty overweight tourists filing through it would rot the airframe!

  56. Shane

    Hang on. They’re moving Enterprise, already based at the Smithsonian annex in Virginia, *from* Virginia *to* New York… to put Discovery in the annex in Virginia? Why not just send Discovery to New York? You know, so as to have to move only ONE orbiter, and not TWO?

    What am I missing?

  57. Brian Schlosser

    As annoyed as I am that Wright-Pat didn’t get an orbiter, I guess “the crew compartment trainer #1; nose cap assembly; thruster primary; model skylab 1/96th scale; and two shuttle tires.” are decent consolation prizes…

    Oh well… We have the Valkyrie and Air Force One, among other amazing things…

  58. Meskine

    You can chalk me up as WTF that Houston didn’t get one. Didn’t those mission controllers control those missions for 30 years? Sure, we’re known for our closed minds and open mouths down here. We don’t cotton to any real science. If we don’t like real history then, by God, we’ll teach our kids a history that suits our liking. But still… Reckon they figured we got enough shuttle when Columbia rained down on East Texas?

  59. Messier Tidy Upper

    They should have built more Shuttles so they could have had more to hand around.. 😉

  60. DCCNam

    Yeah, there does seem to be an East coast bias operating here. Just CA in the West and zip in the middle of the country.

  61. Another reason the choice of New York doesn’t make sense is that it’s only a little over 200 miles from DC. Having two shuttles on display in such relatively close proximity makes no damn sense. Houston would certainly have made much more sense.

    Besides, when did a space shuttle ever land on an aircraft carrier?

  62. samm

    Something no-one has raised yet about the Intrepid is that as far as I can tell the Shuttle will be outside (are there plans to shelter it?), in a marine environment, which makes long term preservation harder. I like the concept of the Intrepid in itself and hope to visit it someday, but having exhibits like the Concorde and the other aircraft on the flight deck exposed to the elements as they are is less than ideal for long term preservation. Worldwide keeping museum aircraft outside in anything but the most benign environments is avoided if possible.

  63. artbot

    @61 -“Besides, when did a space shuttle ever land on an aircraft carrier?”

    I would LOVE to see a poll of Intrepid visitors where they are asked “Did the space shuttle land on an aircraft carrier?” I bet the percentage saying “yes” would be pretty high, maybe even a majority.

  64. Messier Tidy Upper

    @^ artbot : I would LOVE to see one of the Space Shuttle’s land on an aircraft carrier – it might be a bit dicey but is there any real reason why they couldn’t? 😉

    Also I’d love to see a Space Shuttle land on the widest streets of New York as seen in the Letterman show animation too! 😉 8)

  65. Messier Tidy Upper

    Ack. Suddenly appearing from moderation comments. To clarify, the above comment (#65) was a response to artbots comment #63.

    See :


    For a BAUT forum discussion on that latter idea too. :-)

  66. artbot

    @65: No problem….if the carrier was 3 miles long. Then just fuel it up and take off again!

  67. Ben

    Samm, all of them are going to be indoors in climate-controlled buildings. Period.

  68. AliCali

    @ 62 Samm:

    Have you been on an aircraft carrier? The top is not the only place there is aircraft. Under the deck, there are a lot more aircraft. The carrier has elevators to bring them up to and down from the deck. The top of the carrier really is the tip of the iceberg, but in a good way for ships.

    If you haven’t seen a carrier, you should tour one sometime. They’re really, really big.

  69. @Shane: I think the idea is that the Smithsonian, as the country’s preeminent historical collection, ought to have a flown orbiter. Enterprise never flew in space; it only flew freely in a series of approach and landing tests in 1977. If Columbia had survived, they’d surely have gotten it.

    But letting them keep two seems a bit much, so when they get Discovery, Enterprise goes elsewhere.

    I’ve seen Enterprise a few times at the Udvar-Hazy Center. It’s a thing to see. (I wish there were better transportation options to Chantilly, though; my family used to live there, but my parents moved out of there largely because the traffic was getting so bad. I hope Metro to Dulles Airport helps, in the distant futurity when it’s finished.)

  70. MLE

    Dayton is not only home to the Wright Bros and their pioneering of flight – our Amazing Air and Space Museum is within a days drive of 60% of the US population and our museum is FREE to Everyone! Parking is FREE! You don’t have to drive to downtown NYC and pay for parking. School kids across the middle of the country are more likely to attend a FREE museum than a pay attraction.

  71. samm

    @ Ali Cali #69

    Yes I have seen carriers, and know how they work as it comes to aircraft stowage thanks :). As far as I am aware though, there isn’t a carrier lift or hangar deck on the planet big enough for a Space Shuttle. The point I was making was that preserving non-operational unused aircraft outside indefinitely isn’t without it’s associated issues, and I would be concerned if an airframe as significant as a Shuttle was left in such an environment without a lot of specialist care.

    Fortunately though as Ben #68 points out that isn’t to be the case. Thanks Ben! I had a brief look around but couldn’t find any definite info as to how Enterprise was going to be housed or displayed at the Intrepid site.

  72. Messier Tidier Upper raises an interesting point in #59: Aren’t there tons of spare and replacement parts from the shuttles floating around? If I recall correctly, bits of these vehicles could be swapped out (within limits), and a part installed on, say, Columbia on one mission might have been installed on Discovery a few missions later. So are there opportunities for other museums, even smaller regional museums, to get pieces of history – actual pieces of shuttles that once (or many times) flew in space?

  73. Jen

    Being from Seattle, I was at first disappointed that we didn’t get a Shuttle. But when I found out that instead we were getting the training mock-up, and that visitors to the Museum of Flight (an excellent establishment!) would be able to go inside and look around, I was over the moon!! I hear that the Shuttles will be placed out of reach and untouchable in their respective locations. So I think we actually fared pretty well!

  74. Hevach

    Something about Houston getting a pass I figured out, which took a great deal of piecing together from different articles. The 21 cities that tried to get one of the shuttles all had to put together proposals including a pledge of how much they would spend to make it happen. The shipping and preparation costs alone are 28.8 million and up, and only two of the cities which made their bids public even pledged enough to cover that – New York and LA. Seattle bid just over 12 million (not counting the cost of the museum expansion) and claims to be the highest of the non-winning pledges, which earned them the full fuselage training rig. Ohio was the next highest of the public bids ($14 million including the cost of a museum expansion), and got a nose cap assembly and crew compartment training rig. Smaller bids got simulators, thruster assemblies, and… Houston got two chairs.

    Houston didn’t make their exact dollar figure public anywhere I can find, but a few things I did find: Their pledge was, according to their own newspapers, one of if not the smallest in the lot, they didn’t collect enough money to cover the pledge they did make, and their battle with New York the last several months has included a lot of quotes along the lines of, “We shouldn’t HAVE to raise the money.”

    Disclaimer: This is all putting together disconnected bits of news over the last few days. Maybe it really is all a conspiracy by Obama to force Texas out of the Union, but it really looks to me like Houston just didn’t make an acceptable bid. Obama did openly support Ohio in the matter, though, so I question how much pull he even had over the matter.

  75. John

    My family and I recently visited the US; the destinations were LA, Washington DC, NYC and Vegas; as someone stated above they seem to be popular.

    As I have recorded elsewhere, the Smithsonian Air and Space display was my absolute highlight, and brought me near to tears of joy, as a lifetime military and aerospace enthusiast. BA was uppermost in my mind while viewing “his” beautiful Hubble!

    A close second, though, was the Intrepid display. The ship was responsible for some of the early Gemini capsule retrievals so I think the choice is very appropriate.

    I look forward to visiting other such excellent and outstanding displays in the future – I know there are many. What brave men took part in these adventures – Respect!

  76. Dennis

    Is the Chantilly Museum the one near Dulles Airport with Enola Gay?

  77. Nigel Depledge

    Hale-Bopp (44) said:

    It is just possible that the best proposals got the shuttles?

    What? But that’s crazy talk!!!!111!!!


  78. Chuck P.

    @42 Chris
    Losing Oprah isn’t a bad thing. Oprah rots your brain.

  79. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph (46) said:

    The shuttles should be placed in the most world accessible points. NYC is probably the closest thing to a world neutral territory that we are likely to have in the foreseeable future where something of as world spanning interest as the shuttles could be placed. L.A. a close second. They are, both of them, world microcosms.

    L.A. and NYC are the two choices that make the MOST sense in that light.

    I was with you up to this point.

    On your argument, Rome, London, Mecca, Hong Kong or Kolkata might be better places to put Enterprise.

    And Switzerland is far, far closer to being “world neutral territory” than NYC, despite NYC housing the UN.

  80. Nigel Depledge

    Shane (56) said:

    Hang on. They’re moving Enterprise, already based at the Smithsonian annex in Virginia, *from* Virginia *to* New York… to put Discovery in the annex in Virginia? Why not just send Discovery to New York? You know, so as to have to move only ONE orbiter, and not TWO?

    What am I missing?

    Enterprise never flew in space. Discovery did. The Smithsonian is probably the premier museum in the USA.

  81. A geeky note about Enterprise: One thing I wonder is why the color scheme on the orbiter is currently what it is. The black areas around the nose RCS nozzles match neither the paint job it had at the time of the Approach and Landing Tests, nor the different pattern on the spaceworthy orbiters.

    …But Googling reveals that it does match the coloration Enterprise had when it was used for fit tests at the never-used Vandenberg AFB launch pad. I guess that reduces the mystery a bit.

    Huntsville actually does already have another full-sized Shuttle test article, a mockup used for handling tests at KSC called Pathfinder.

  82. Virginia Square VA

    From the late 1970’s through the mid-1980’s, I worked on the orbiter program for Rockwell International in the Space Transportation Systems (STS) division. During my tenure with Rockwell, I crawled in, around and through most of the vehicles during their assembly. However, there is no orbiter quite like OV-101. I was heartbroken to learn that she is departing the Smithsonian at Udar/Hazy. We now live near Dulles, Virginia and I love going to the air and space museum to see the man-made marvels of flight.

  83. ObviousTroll

    I agree. Texas got most of Columbia already. I wish there were more shuttles to go around for everyone though.

  84. …Enterprise seems to have had its current paint job by the time it appeared at the 1983 Paris Air Show and the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair. It may have been a redecoration for those events.

  85. Nigel Depledge

    NCC-1701Z (61) said:

    Besides, when did a space shuttle ever land on an aircraft carrier?

    Wouldn’t that have been something to see?

  86. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (65) said:

    I would LOVE to see one of the Space Shuttle’s land on an aircraft carrier – it might be a bit dicey but is there any real reason why they couldn’t?

    Erm … isn’t Shuttle doing best part of 200 mph at touchdown? And isn’t the orbiter about 20 times the weight of anything that normally lands on an aircraft carrier?

    Either that or you’d need an aircraft carrier that’s the best part of 2 miles long.

  87. Nigel Depledge

    AliCali (69) said:

    Have you been on an aircraft carrier? The top is not the only place there is aircraft. Under the deck, there are a lot more aircraft. The carrier has elevators to bring them up to and down from the deck. The top of the carrier really is the tip of the iceberg, but in a good way for ships.

    If you haven’t seen a carrier, you should tour one sometime. They’re really, really big.

    IIUC, Shuttle’s orbiter is pretty damn’ big too. Will it fit in the elevator of an aircraft carrier?

  88. Joseph

    @ Nigel Depledge #78

    I should have added a clarification.

    Those are the most world neutral points that I think the U.S. Government and the U.S. people would be willing to except. I agree Switzerland would be a even more appropriate point in terms of world neutrality as well as the other cities being potential points of even greater world influence. And talk about political power plays, the gift of a shuttle to another country would have been… well nothing short of amazing.

    Really I think the best approach would have been a WORKING intrepid, as in one that could travel and bring the shuttle and other such world significant artifacts TO the peoples of the planet.

    Hmm… This concept seems more and more appropriate the longer I think about it. But it would have to be a truly unsinkable platform… akin to the proposed sea habitats I have seen proposed over the years. But I think it is as much a short term reality dream as suggesting gifting one of the shuttles to the world.

  89. JohnK

    If you are going to say that Texas already has most of Columbia, then one could say Florida has Challenger and doesn’t need a shuttle either.

  90. As an Ohioan, I find the Intrepid location a truly irritating choice: Don’t give me that carp about drawing international visitors. NY is hardly hurting in terms of tourist offerings. And if people were coming from overseas to the East Coast and really wanted to see a shuttle, they’d have taken a day and hit Northern Va. to do so.

    I’ll concede LA isn’t a great space-related choice, but it makes a shuttle accessible to the Western U.S. population. Orlando and the Smithsonian were no-brainers.

    A shuttle in Dayton would have put it within an easy day’s drive of a huge portion of the U.S. population, just off major interstates, and been a standout attraction with little nearby competition for similar tourist dollars.

    Yeah, I’m kind of ticked off about it.

  91. Jared

    Without having read the proposals in the first place- we can’t really say if Houston’s bid was nearly as good as NYC’s bid.

    But here is my thinking if all the proposals were equal in merit: NYC makes perfect sense- specifically next to the Intrepid. The USS Intrepid was the recovery ship for the Gemini & Mercury missions, it is a major tourist attraction already- and NYC can afford to build it its own building, as stipulated by NASA for the shuttle. If you want exposure to the world for this massive technological creation: NYC smacks Houston around by a few orders of magnitude. So don’t pick on the most populous city, with probably the most prominent tourism industry for why they got a shuttle- a major attraction. It would be like asking why Disney World got Space Mountain.

    LA was the place where they were built, and landed; not to mention tested. JPL is there, along with a host of other factors like sheer size of LA and prominent area attractions.

    The Smithsonian is the most prominent museum in the USA. They already house a myriad of treasures in the Air & Space museum on the National Mall; and their museum out by Dulles (Chantilly) Airport houses the Enterprise, a SR-71, an a plethora of other large & famous craft. So they are owed an upgrade. Also- Smithsonian is FREE (though parking costs $$).

    Seattle- no clue here.

    Don’t get me wrong, Houston would have also made sense; they have had a major role in manned spaceflight for decades. But let us not pretend we are operating in a vacuum. Go back to WHY exactly Texas got Mission Control in the first place. Hint: Look at the name of the center… it was Politicking at it’s most blatant. So it is ironic that they cry foul now with that charge.

  92. Charly

    Texas does not have Columbia. All of the pieces were gathered up and shipped to Florida for the investigation.

  93. Ben

    #84 “I agree. Texas got most of Columbia already. ”

    I am not sure what you are referring to, but Columbia’s debris is located at the Kennedy Space Center, inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.

  94. Ben

    #90, again, Columbia is in Florida, like Challenger.

    The rest of you, continuing to talk about where on the Intrepid it is going, PLEASE READ BEFORE POSTING. A new building, a glass-enclosed museum, will be built on Pier 86 alongside the Intrepid before Enterprise is sent there.

    All museums acquiring a shuttle must display them in a climate-controlled facility.

  95. toasterhead

    I find it a bit amusing that a vehicle designed to go from -160C to +200C every 45 minutes while travelling in a near-vacuum at 17,500 mph has to be kept in a climate controlled environment…

  96. VinceRN

    I was a little disappointed we wouldn’t get one in Seattle, but the trainer should be great and Los Angles isn’t to far. I’m puzzled why Housing didn’t get one though.

  97. 1coolguy

    As NASA owns the 747 Shuttle transporter, why not FLY one to a new city EVERY YEAR?

    Can you believe the fan fare it would receive where ever it landed? It would be a huge event, no matter what city it flew into.

    Auction it off to the highest bidding city every year and the winning bid would EASILY pay for the cost of the move.

    This would also allow the most citizens to see it.

    I don’t see any downside what-so-ever.

  98. Ben

    #101 It is a major process to transport a shuttle, and comes with major costs (2 million + just for one cross-country return from Edwards after a landing there). It would also present added danger to them, if the goal is, of course, preserving them.

    It has already been stated by NASA that cross-country tours may be conducted on the way to their museums.

  99. Ben H.

    Since I’m an aerospace geek I’m going to nitpick… The airplane at the Intrepid is not an SR-71 but a CIA A-12, which was a precursor to the SR-71, but not the same airplane:


  100. Ben H.

    I was at a lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson last night and he made the very good point that “NYC has nothing to do with spaceflight” is EXACTLY why they should get one.

    On another note, as a JSC employee, our visitor center is probably one of the lowest quality Air and Space museums in the country. They have some great artifacts in the part of their facility that is actually a museum but its hidden in the back and you wouldn’t even know it was there when you walk in. Usually all you see in the main room is some sellout display to Disney or Legos or Lucasfilm It’s pretty terrible. A respectable museum showcases its treasures, like the Smithsonian that has the Columbia command module front and center when you come in the door….

    – Ben
    Houston, TX

  101. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph (89) said:

    Those are the most world neutral points that I think the U.S. Government and the U.S. people would be willing to except. I agree Switzerland would be a even more appropriate point in terms of world neutrality as well as the other cities being potential points of even greater world influence. And talk about political power plays, the gift of a shuttle to another country would have been… well nothing short of amazing.

    Ah, I see.

    And I agree that gifting Enterprise to another country would indeed have been amazing.

    I find it interesting that several commenters have pointed out that no-one in the Midwest will be less than a day’s drive from one of the Shuttle orbiters, and yet have not noticed that no-one else in the rest of the world can see one without flying to the USA (or driving, if in a relevant part of Canada or Mexico*).

    Having said that, I do of course recognise that Shuttle was paid for with US tax dollars, so there is adequate reason to keep them in museums in the USA.

    * Which set me to wondering. How long would it take to drive from, say, Toronto to NYC? Or from various parts of northern Mexico to LA?

  102. Nigel Depledge

    Toasterhead (97) said:

    I find it a bit amusing that a vehicle designed to go from -160C to +200C every 45 minutes while travelling in a near-vacuum at 17,500 mph has to be kept in a climate controlled environment…

    Maybe because it was designed to operate mostly in a vacuum?

    Air is nasty, corrosive stuff!

  103. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Nigel Depledge :

    Yup. Two words for you – wind erosion.
    Another two : sand-blasting!
    Plus if water can rust iron then what is it doing to us! 😉

    @87. Nigel Depledge :

    MTU (65) said: “I would LOVE to see one of the Space Shuttle’s land on an aircraft carrier – it might be a bit dicey but is there any real reason why they couldn’t?”
    Erm … isn’t Shuttle doing best part of 200 mph at touchdown? And isn’t the orbiter about 20 times the weight of anything that normally lands on an aircraft carrier. Either that or you’d need an aircraft carrier that’s the best part of 2 miles long.?

    Okay I guess those are real reasons why you couldn’t after all.

    Although they also make better reasons for building bigger, tougher aircraft carriers to me! 😉

  104. ntsc

    I live in the NYC area and am from the Chicago area, so I don’t claim impartiality and frankly there should be one at the Space Center. However I would point out that the only reason the Johnson Space Center is in Texas can be answered in one word. Johnson.

    I see that somebody above, #92 I think, also remembers that.

  105. Charly

    Nigel – It is twice as long from Houston to Orlando than it is from Toronto to New York…..

  106. Matt B.

    The Intrepid is a creepy place to put a space shuttle, given Payne Harrison’s novel Storming Intrepid, in which a Soviet agent hijacks a space shuttle in orbit, killing its crew in the process. The plot also involved the Soviet Premier threatening to truck nuclear bombs into major U.S. cities.

  107. Ashley E.

    I live near the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, and I have to say that I am thrilled they are getting Discovery. The facility is essentially a huge hanger, filled with planes, jets, even a Concorde, and a variety of space-flight items, including a full-sized test-model of the Enterprise. I don’t know what they need 2 shuttles for, so why not give the Enterprise test-model up to a place (Houston, in my opinion) that didn’t get a retiring one? I love the Smithsonian, but there’s no reason for them to hang onto both of them.

    And if anyone is near D.C., the Udvar-Hazy Center is a branch of the Air and Space Museum that is just a short drive into VA. I highly recommend checking it out if you can, it is really a wonderful museum. And as it is a Smithsonian, it is (for now anyway) free to visit.

  108. Ben

    #111. Please, please, please, please, please: go read about this before posting. That is the Enterprise, not a model of it! And yes, they are giving Enterprise to the Intrepid in NYC, that is the entire point of this story.

    The Smithsonian did not win anything. They were getting Discovery no matter what.

  109. Nigel Depledge

    Charly (109) said:

    Nigel – It is twice as long from Houston to Orlando than it is from Toronto to New York…..

    OK, so the more populous regions of Canada are sorta served by Enterprise going to NYC. If you ask me, that’s another reason to put it in NYC rather than Houston.

    Any thoughts about how easily other non-USAians might get the opportunity to see an orbiter?

  110. Nigel Depledge

    @ Ben (112) –

  111. Messier Tidy Upper

    Maybe they could just, oh I dunno, shuttle them from place to place so everywhere gets a turn? 😉

    As #101. 1coolguy suggested & discussed a bit above. (Couldn’t resist the pun.)

  112. Sam

    Why is it that the national air force museum couldnt’ve gotten one? It is the largest air force museum in the world right? The air force did help with the space shuttle right? It seems pretty sad that they are all on the coasts when the great plains area has some huge combined populations. All the states within 6 hours of dayton (ie. Ohio, michigan, Indiana, illinois, pennsylvania, kentucky, tennessee, west virginia, even new york and virginia) have a combined population of 93,360,000!!!! Thats almost 1/3 of our countries population just 6 hours away from the museum.


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