When the shuttle program ends, NASA will have four orbiters to distribute around the country. Most people expected the Smithsonian in Virginia and Kennedy Space Center in Florida to snag two of the shuttles.
And they did.
But many Houstonians were shocked that the other two orbiters went to Los Angeles and New York City.
“I think it’s unfair. I think it’s wrong.”
Diane Brenner just moved to Houston from Dayton, Ohio. Both cities were contenders for a retired shuttle; Dayton is the home of the Air Force museum.
“Middle America absolutely should have had something, this is where everything came from, one place or the other, Dayton or Houston, it wouldn’t matter as long as they got somewhere in the middle. But New York? I don’t understand.”
In a conference call with reporters, an assistant NASA administrator, Olga Dominguez, explained that the winning cities provide great potential for what she calls “domestic and international access.”
“Reaching the largest population possible was always part of our criteria. It’s key, it’s in the Space Act, that we are supposed to reach out and communicate about space and touch as many people as possible.”
Another criterion for winning was that the city have a historical connection to the space program.
Houston obviously has that, so Dominguez had to explain that facilities outside L.A. helped design and build space shuttles, and the USS Intrepid in New York, where a shuttle will be displayed, worked as a recovery ship for Mercury and Gemini capsules. That reasoning did not assuage Bob Mitchell, the president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.
“Politics should never play a part in a decision about a piece of American history. Today I feel politics trumped commonsense.”
Mitchell says he’ll push for a Congressional investigation or hearing to find out what happened.
Dominguez denies that politics or pressure had any part in the decision. Space Center Houston will receive two seats from a shuttle flight deck to put on display.