Florida Group Launches Bid to Reserve Retired Space Shuttle

Shuttle Flying Piggyback on 747 to Florida
The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft takes off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., with space shuttle Endeavour on its back Wednesday morning. The flight is to carry Endeavour back to its home base at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
(Image: © NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL --"Keep one here."

That's the rally cry of agrass-roots group that launched a bid Thursday to make certain that either Atlantis, Discovery or Endeavour roostsin retirement at Kennedy Space Center.

NASA is under direction to shutdown its shuttle fleet by September 2010, and museums nationwide are aimingto display one of the agency's three winged spaceships.

The Smithsonian Air &Space Museum in Washington, D.C., likely will have first dibs. The NationalMuseum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton,Ohio, is expected to compete, too.

So is The Museum of Flightin Seattle and perhaps NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and MarshallSpace Flight Center in Hunstville, Ala., not to mention the city of Palmdale,Calif., where the orbiters were built.

"It's clear thateveryone thinks it would be an absolute sin if we did not have a space shuttlehere for display," said Jim Banke, an aerospace industry veteran fromMelbourne who is organizing the local effort. "And we absolutely cannottake for granted that we are going to get one. We can't just assume that one ofthem is automatically ours."

In December, NASA releaseda notice to gauge interest from educational institutions and science museums.The agency said it would cost organizations anestimated $42 million to ready an orbiter for display.

NASA said it would cost$28.2 million to "safe" a spaceship, or take an orbiter out ofservice and remove toxic propellants. Also, $8 million would be required tospruce up a ship for display. And it would cost $5.8 million to ferry anorbiter to its retirement home.

Former KSC directors JayHoneycutt, Jim Kennedy and Bob Crippen - the latter a former astronaut whopiloted Columbia on its maidenvoyage in 1981 - are involved in the bid to bring one of the birds to afinal perch at KSC.

NASA officials at KSC willsubmit a proposal by March 17, and the group will meet in mid-February to forma publicity campaign.

The idea is to display anorbiter at the KSC Visitor Complex, one of the most popular tourist attractionsin Florida. "We think that we've got a nice place to display the shuttleand to tell the story of the shuttle program," said Lisa Malone, directorof external relations at KSC. "It's an important story to tell, and itmakes sense to have one of the orbiters at the launch site."

Publishedunder license from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright ? 2009 FLORIDA TODAY.No portion of this material may be reproduced in any way without the writtenconsent of FLORIDA TODAY.

 

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.