Where should the retiring space shuttles end up?

NASA's three retiring spacecraft will end up in museums across the nation. The winners find out Tuesday. Who makes the best case?

NASA's space shuttle Discovery will retire to the National Air and Space Museum in Virginia, while the three other shuttles could end up in Florida, Texas, and even New York.
(Image credit: NASA)

NASA's shuttle program is drawing to an end, leaving Americans to wonder where on Earth the three surviving space shuttles will find new homes. Twenty-one museums and science centers are vying for the rights to host either Enterprise, Atlantis or Endeavour after the shuttle program ends later this year (Discovery is already headed to the National Air and Space Museum in Virginia). The competitors will learn the results on Tuesday — the 30th anniversary of the launch of Columbia's maiden voyage. Whoever wins will have to pay $28.8 million to bring the orbiter to their town, but will have permanent ownership of one of the most iconic pieces of American space travel. Who has the best claim to a shuttle?

Florida — It's where the shuttles already live: The Kennedy Space Center is the obvious choice for a shuttle, says John Kelly at Florida Today. Why? We have a "world-class museum capable of handing such a prized space relic," we have the people who made them, and "this is the orbiters' home" already. It would "defy sound reasoning and common courtesy" to choose someone else ahead of us.

"Shuttle surely belongs at KSC"

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Texas — It's where space history was made: Houston has played a "leading role in America's space program" since its inception, say Denis C. Braham and Donald J. Henderson at the Houston Chronicle. Surely no other facility than the Johnson Space Center is "more iconic in our nation's history of space travel." In the Space Center Houston, we have a "showcase for our nation's space program." It's a "no-brainer," providing "backroom, political dealings" don't get in the way.

"Houston deserves to keep space shuttle"

New York — It's where the most people would see it: No one can compete with the Big Apple, says Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), quoted at CBS. Over a million tourists already visit the Intrepid Air and Space Museum each year, meaning "more people will see [the shuttle] than in any other city." Not only that, but the U.S.S. Intrepid has a relationship with the space program. "They picked up the capsules before."

"Sen. Chuck Schumer pushes for space shuttle to land in Manhattan."

Oklahoma It's where shuttle parts were built: OK, so Tulsa is the little guy, says Kim Jones, the curator of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, quoted in Tulsa World. But we're a "serious contender." Rockwell built the shuttle payload bay doors in Tulsa, alongside "major pieces of ground-maneuvring equipment." Also, our museum is right at the airport. "A shuttle can basically come straight to our front door."

"Tulsa vies to become home of retiring NASA space shuttle."

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