Why Houston Didn’t Get a Shuttle

The announcement that Houston would not be the final home of one of the four space shuttle vehicles shocked some and angered others in Houston. Some people accused the White House of playing politics. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says not so. Bill Stamps spoke with Bolden who happens to live part time in Houston.

The selection process took more than a year and involved 29 different organizations — all hoping to be the final resting place of a space shuttle.

And when it was all over Houston — the city that’s home to Mission Control — was left out. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden tells me the decision was his.

“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. It made the leader board, if you’re a golf fan.”

For many Houstonians who believe this is the center of the American space world, not getting a shuttle is simply unacceptable. But Bolden says there’s more to it than simply being a space town. When he studied how and where the shuttle would be used, how many people would see it, Houston didn’t measure up to the cities that won.

The shuttle would have been displayed at Space Center Houston, right next to Johnson Space Center.

“You know, Houston has had Space Center Houston for geez, I was on the original board, and we struggled to be quite honest. We struggled trying to make it viable and the leadership, the management of Space Center Houston has really done an incredible job of bringing people in. But I think, you know there’s still time for the city to rise to the occasion and begin to support Space Center Houston the way other cities have supported their institutions.”

Bolden wouldn’t say it, but the implication was that the Space Center doesn’t bring in as many tourists, nor does it get as much attention in its own city as other venues do in their towns.

“You know 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.”

It was Houston that Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert called on when there was a problem.

It was Houston that named its now famous stadium, the Astrodome.

But the city known for its connection to space by the locals, apparently, isn’t known well enough or visited enough by everyone else — at least not enough to be given the most popular space ship ever built.