NASA Administrator Charles Bolden today unveiled the winners in the bidding war to become home to one of NASA’s retiring space shuttle orbiters. Bolden selected the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the California Science Center, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, outside Washington D.C.
Bolden made the announcement at a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center coinciding with the 30th anniversery of the first space shuttle flight. Space Shuttle Columbia blasted off on the STS-1 mission on April 12, 1981. Today is also the 50th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight by Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April12, 1961.
Only two shuttle flights remain before the Space Shuttle Program and the orbiters are retired after 30 years of speceflight and 133 mission so far. The final two missions – STS-134 and STS 135 – are slated for late April and late June 2011.
The orbiters will then be transferred to their new homes and put on display where NASA hopes they will inspire the next generation of explorers and engineers. But the word mentioned by Bolden and all the other speakers was “bittersweet” – because today is a mixture of sadness that the orbiters are being retired while still flight worthy and happiness that the program has achieved so much.
Atlantis, the final shuttle to fly, will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Kennedy is the natural home to the orbiters and where every shuttle mission has launched and where every shuittle mission is processed for flight.
Kennedy plans to disiplay shuttle Atlantis as though it were “In Flight”. Read my earlier story on Kennedy’s proposal to showcase the orbiter with interactive exhibits and numerous shuttle program artifacts , such as like the White Room and the Beenie Cap.
As expected, Shuttle Discovery was assigned to the Smithsonian’s National Air
and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. Discovery is the fisrt of the orbiters to be retired and just completed its final mission, STS -133, in March 2011
The prototype orbiter Enterprise, which is currently on display at the Smithsonian, will be moved up the east coast to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City
Space Shuttle Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, near to the location where all the shuttle orbiters were constructed. Endeavour will be the only orbiter to be display outside the east coast. Endeavour is being processed for her final flight, the STS-134 mission, set to launch on April 29.
Oddly left out is the Johnson Space Center, home to all the Space Shuttle astronauts and their training facilities.