Waiting for Discovery

Landing of Storied Shuttle
Kicks Race For Its Final Home

As NASA’S most traveled shuttle prepares to land and end its long history of space flights, museums around the U.S. jockey to be chosen as its permanent home. The space agency will announce April 13 where the Discovery‘s resting place will be and several institutions expect to be remember as its ideal location.
Ahead of the pack is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, which was offered the Discovery three years ago. Not even the $28.8 million price tag, which it cannot afford, will be an obstacle: the Congress’s budget decrees that it’d have only “a nominal cost” to the institution.
The Johnson Space Center in Houston has the edge for being the site for Mission Control of all shuttle flights. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space in Manhattan collected thousands of signatures in a petition, which may not be much, considering the competition’s resources.
Like the Museum of Flight in Seattle, which has dedicated $12 million wing to house a shuttle. The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is another strong competitor for having launched the fleet of shuttles during these past 30 years.
A surprising contender, with a powerful sponsor, is the hardly known Museum of the U.S. Air Force, in Ohio, which has a $14 million budget request in President Obama’s budget, to host a shuttle. Altogether, there are 21 institutions hoping to include one in their touristic attractions. And only two more shuttles left, after the Discovery is decommissioned for good, the Endevour and the Atlantis.
NASA also has a consolation prize to bestow one of the many losers of April 13: the Enterprise, which has never been to space but looks like all the other ones that actually did it. It may be view as disconcerting that such an important decision will be made by just one person: Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden. Just in case, you can bet that the 21 candidates have made sure his ears are full.

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