NEW YORK ? The Big Apple has set its sights set on one of NASA?sspace shuttles with hopes of snagging one of the iconic space planes forpermanent display aboard an aircraft carrier-turned-museum.
Elected officials are now throwing their weight behindspace-minded citizens and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum to reserve oneof NASA?s three aging spaceshuttles once they are retired from spaceflight later this year.
?I can think of no better place to showcase the spaceprogram and America?s innovation to the world than New York,? said CongressmanJerrold Nadler (D-NY), who is based here in Manhattan. ?As America?s mostcosmopolitan city, New York would be the perfect venue to display this iconicspacecraft.?
On Sunday, U.S. senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and KirstenGillibrand (D-NY) stopped by the Intrepid museum to pledge their support forobtaining a NASA space shuttle.
The museum has launched on-site and online campaigns togather signatures of support for its space shuttle bid. So far, the campaignhas collected about 25,000 signatures to display a shuttle in New York City.
?Locating a shuttle at the Intrepid has been called a?no-brainer? ? and we couldn?t agree more,? said Intrepid museum president BillWhite in a statement. ?With millions of American and foreign tourists visitingNew York City every year, putting a shuttle at the Intrepid would create an idealplatform to share our national pride in our space program with the entireworld, pay tribute to the men and women who have played a role in our greatesttechnological achievement, and provide an opportunity to educate futuregenerations on the exploration of space.?
New York loves shuttles
Basing a shuttle at the Intrepid would generate up to $71million each year in direct spending for New York City, as well as a total of$106 million per year in new economic activity, museum officials said. It wouldallow more than 50 million residents and tourists a year to see the Americanspacecraft, they added.
NASA has three space shuttles ? Discovery, Atlantis andEndeavour ? with the Discovery orbiter slated to blast off from Florida onApril 5 to deliver supplies, science experiments and spare parts to theInternational Space Station.
The space agency plans to retire its three-orbiter fleet atthe end of September after four final shuttle flights to complete constructionof the $100 billion space station. The station, a product of 16 differentcountries, has been under assembly since 1998.
Once those final flights arecomplete, the space shuttles will be up for grabs for interested museums in theUnited States [spaceshuttle photos].
Discovery, the oldest of NASA?s shuttles, has been promisedto the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., which leaves thetwo youngest available for other institutions. Discovery will replace the test shuttleEnterprise, which has been on exhibit in the Smithsonian?s Stephen F.Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex in Chantilly, Va., since 2003.
Earlier this year, NASA lowered the price of itsmuseum-bound space shuttles from $42 million to $28.2 million. The price cutwas aimed at releasing museums from the cost of safeguarding the spacecraft sothat they can be safely exhibited.
NASA is expected to announce the final retirement home forAtlantis and Endeavour no earlier than July 2010. There are more than 20institutions vying to secure those shuttles, Intrepid museum officials said.
No stranger to spaceflight
The Intrepid has close ties to NASA?s human spaceflightprogram, which could give it an edge, museum officials said.
In the 1960s, it served as the prime recovery ship for theMercury 7 flight by astronaut Scott Carpenter, as well as the Gemini 3 missionflown by astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young.
The museum is already home to numerous aircraft, includingan A-12 Blackbird (a relative of the SR-71 Blackbird) and a British AirwaysConcorde, a supersonic passenger jet.
This month, the museum also hosted legendary former astronautNeil Armstrong, the first human ever to walk on the moon, during awelcome-home ceremony from an overseas trip with other pilot legends to boostthe morale of deployed U.S. troops.
Armstrong?s arrival was delayed a day due to bad weather,but that didn?t stop nearly 2,000 attendees from waving signs with slogans suchas "Bring the Shuttle 2 the Big Apple? and ?NY [hearts] Shuttle.?
Among the attendees at the Armstrong events on March 13 and14 was a group of Cub Scouts from Pack 206 in Westchester, N.Y., eager to see areal space shuttle inside the cavernous hangar bay of the Intrepid museum.
?You would get to see a machine that really travels inspace,? Lucas Shriver, age 8, told SPACE.com.
Shriver?s fellow scout Van Strahl, also 8 years old, addedthat he wanted to see a shuttle in flight.
?I would love to see it just land,? he said.
- Images- Space Shuttle's Midnight Launch
- NASA'sMost Memorable Missions
- AGuide to NASA's Last Space Shuttle Missions