NASA administrator Charles Bolden told KUHF back in May of this year that he would’ve liked to put a shuttle in Houston, but that not enough people would get to see it at Space Center Houston.
"It’s an incredible venue, but when they have to rely on bringing exhibits in that have nothing to do with space, just to attract people. It says that the city probably ought to get a little more involved with them in trying to make them a focal point for the city of Houston."
City leaders and several members of Congress called for an investigation into how the decision to put the retired shuttles in Florida, California, New York, and DC. So months later, NASA has now issued a report saying politics did not play a role and that all decisions made were proper and ethical.
But at least one Houston city leader isn’t buying it. Bob Mitchell President of the Bay Area Partnership still believes Bolden had ulterior motives.
"If you read that report from the inspector general, it very clearly states that the team that Charles Bolden picked to select the sites to replaces those shuttles, Houston was to receive the Atlantis in three different scenarios. So the professional team that he picked to make the choice picked Houston to receive the Atlantis. "
The report does say that the recommendation committee felt the shuttles should be placed in Houston and three other cities that all have NASA visitor’s centers. But that was before Bolden was appointed administrator. Once he took over, he told the team, he didn’t believe a location’s connection to the Space Shuttle Program, or to NASA should be a consideration in deciding where to place the orbiters.
Bolden wanted cities that got the most tourists, where the shuttles would be viewed by the most people.
"When it finally came to me for review, Houston fell just outside of the top five, if you will. It was in the final group."
According to the report, Space Center Houston didn’t score that bad in attendance. It was the access to international tourists that seems to have done it in.