Space Shuttle Coming to a Museum Near You…Maybe.

After 30 years of service, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is going to be retiring its fleet of three space shuttles next year. The final flight of the shuttle Atlantis took place in May, Discovery’s final flight is set for November 1, and Discovery will be grounded after its last mission planned for February of 2011.

The first of four test flights of the NASA space shuttle program occurred in 1981, followed by its first missions in 1982. When the shuttle system retires next year, it will have flown some 134 missions. Six shuttles were built over the lifetime of the program: the Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. The first shuttle Enterprise was built for test flights and was never intended to go to space, leaving five space-worthy vehicles. Two of the shuttles and their crew ended tragically with the Challenger disintegrating 73 seconds after launch in 1986 and the Columbia breaking apart upon re-entry in 2003.

The fate of one of the remaining three shuttles is known: The Discovery will be sent to Washington D.C. to be put on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The remaining two shuttles, Atlantis and Endeavour, are still up for grabs and Washington State is vying for one of them.

Rendering of planned Seattle Museum of Flight space addition

Rendering of planned Seattle Museum of Flight space addition

Seattle’s Museum of Flight is planning to spend $12 million to build a new space exhibit with $3 million coming from the state and the remaining $9 million to come from private foundations and individual donations. Currently, you can’t just park one of the rarest vehicles on Earth in virtually any ol’ warehouse. NASA has recently set forth standards to which such institutions must abide if they wish to house one of these shuttles; based on these stipulations, the climate-controlled, 15,000 square-foot addition to the Seattle’s Museum of Flight is a strong contender. Other institutions in the running include: the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

It makes my inner geek very excited to think that, in the next couple years, we could have what is arguably one of the most influential vehicles in human space flight history hosted in the place I proudly call home, the Pacific Northwest.

(If you’re in the area, I recommend touring The Museum of Flight in Seattle; for more, visit http://www.museumofflight.org.)

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Posted August 30th, 2010, by

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About J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

J. VanDomelen holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and myriad certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTia in varying facets of computer software, hardware, and network design and implementation. He has worked in the electronics industry for more than 12 years in varied fields, including advanced systems design of highly technical military and aerospace computer systems, semiconductor manufacturing, open source software development, hardware design, and rapid prototyping. J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

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5 comments on this post | ↓ Add Your Own

Commented on August 31, 2010 at 9:08 pm
By Jim O'Reilly

I’ve also heard that the Evergreen Aviation and Space Musuem in McMinnville is making its case to get one of the shuttles. It seems apparent that if one did come up our way, it would be either Boeing or Evergreen, not both. Regardless, it would be a nice addition (and a great draw) to either facility.

[...] vehicles Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and Falcon 9 Heavy, were selected to replace the soon-to-be-retired NASA Space Shuttles for the delivery and return of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). In [...]

Commented on September 1, 2010 at 4:49 pm
By J VanDomelen

That is great news! I would love to see one of the shuttles make it up our way. Such a rare and exciting exhibit it would be.

Commented on April 26, 2011 at 10:29 am
By Holy Outsourcing Batman! « J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

[...] the Space Shuttle retires as scheduled in June, NASA will be dependent on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry astronauts to [...]

Commented on November 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm
By NASA Space Shuttles’ Final Endeavor « J. VanDomelen Mil/Aero Blog

[...] have found new homes at museums in the United States. Endeavour, built as a replacement for Space Shuttle Challenger, recently arrived at its new home in Los Angeles, and the world was [...]

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