NASA – The End of an Era

April 13, 2011

Tuesday (April 12, 2011) is characterized as a memorable day in space innovation.  NASA officials have describe this day as one filled with much emotion and anticipation.  It was 30 years ago from this date that sparked our nation’s first shuttle launch into space and 50 years ago of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin journey to space.  However, the real historic moment of today’s news, was the press conference called by NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charles Bolden to announce the retirement homes (museums) that would have the honor of displaying one of the four remaining space shuttles (Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavor, and Enterprise). 

Bolden, revealed it was not an easy decision to determine the locations of these space shuttles.  This was a process that had started back in 2008 when over 21 museums were asked to state their pitch, with hopes that they may be lucky enough to get a space shuttle to put on display.  Bolden knew that today would be extremely exciting as four museums were granted their wish, but also extremely disappointing that NASA had to deny the other 17 museums request.  The Atlantis space shuttle will be displayed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida; the Discovery at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, in Washington D.C.; the Endeavor at the California Science Center, Los Angeles; and the Enterprise (the prototype that never flew in space) at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York. 

 CNN reported that while these four museums are thankful to have the honor of displaying a piece of space history; there also comes a big price tag of 28.8 million dollars.  This money is what museums must pay NASA in order to prepare and transport each particular shuttle as it will piggyback on NASA 747 jetliner to its proper destination.  NASA has also strictly enforced that each shuttle must remain indoors in its own climate controlled facility.  While  adding these space shuttles to these particular museums is expected to increase popularity and sales revenues,  the Kennedy Space Center is looking at bringing in an additional 15 million dollars once Atlantis is put on display and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York is estimating over 116 million dollars in revenue benefits.           

Though it may seem bitter sweet that NASA will be receiving  a grand total of 115.2 million dollars for its space shuttles, they have yet to reveal their plans after all shuttles are retired.  While NASA may simply be focused on completing its last several space missions this summer, and then shortly after preparing the shuttles for delivery; the rest of America and the world waits in the dark to figure out what happens next.  Many are baffled by this decision, especially when such a prestigious agency has always helped direct the world towards future space innovations.


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