NASA on Friday slashed its multi-million dollar price tag for museums looking to acquire one of its three space shuttle orbiters after they are retired later this year. The due date for the reduced payment, which dropped by almost one-third, was also advanced to be six months earlier than previously announced.
Interested educational institutions and science museums will now only owe the space agency an estimated $28.8 million - down from the $42 million set in December 2008 - if they are chosen to receive either shuttles Atlantis or Endeavour. Discovery, the oldest of the orbiters, has been promised to the National Air and Space Museum, although the Smithsonian will still need to pay the same fee.
The lower price comes as a result of NASA releasing the shuttles' recipients from having to underwrite the "safeing" of the vehicles, preparing them to be safely exhibited. The museums will still need to pay for ferrying the orbiter atop the agency's modified Boeing 747 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to a U.S. destination airport.
While updating its formal Request for Information (RFI) to museums, NASA also revised its schedule for transferring the orbiters to begin six months earlier than previously stated in 2008.
As such, the earliest NASA will announce the final homes for Atlantis and Endeavour will be in July 2010, giving the selected museums approximately a year to fundraise and erect the required indoor housing for the orbiters.
NASA has set a Feb. 19, 2010 deadline for institutions to reply to the updated request in order to be considered to receive an orbiter.
In the interim, NASA is continuing to ready Endeavour to fly the first of five remaining shuttle missions to complete the International Space Station. STS-130 is scheduled to launch on Feb. 7 on a 13-day mission to deliver the third and final connecting node for the orbiting outpost.
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