Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Retirement locations announced for NASA orbiters

The planned $100 million shuttle Atlantis exhibit in Florida. (KSCVC)

NASA announced today the locations in which the three surviving space shuttle orbiters will be housed following their retirement this year.

In a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center to mark the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch, NASA administrator Charlie F. Bolden laid out where the three space rated orbiters and one air flown orbiter will be placed on display for the public to view.

In an emotional address to space center workers and Space Coast political aides, Bolden stated with excitement the future homes of NASA's pride for thirty years.

A veteran of 39 space flights, Discovery will be retired to the much anticipated Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

Discovery will occupy a spacious indoor facility which was home to the test model orbiter, Enterprise.

Florida's Kennedy Space Center's Visitors Center will receive orbiter Atlantis, the fourth space rated shuttle craft.

The Kennedy Space Center's Visitor's Center will begin construction soon of a $100 million exhibit to showcase Atlantis for the public.

The planned 64,000-square foot indoor floor plan will be highlighted by displaying the space flown orbiter above the crowd, angled slightly and the payload bay doors open.

A scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope is expected to hang behind the orbiter with the orbiter's robotic arm raised skyward.

The California Science Center located in Los Angeles, near where the orbiters were built will become the new home for NASA's youngest orbiter Endeavour.

Each of the five main orbiters and the one prototype test orbiter were built at Rockwell over an eighteen year period.

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum, located on New York City's west side, was selected to receive Enterprise.

The aeronautical museum hosted a viewing event in which museum president Susan Marenoff- Zausner, managers and the public were invited to watch the announcements on a 40-foot screen.

As the venue was announced as a future home, applause and screams sounded loudly over Bolden's announcement in the theater.

Named for the United States World War II aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid is the center piece for the museum as she floats upon the Hudson River.

"People from across our nation and around our world will continue to learn from these amazing vehicles," Bolden said. "I want to congratulate all of these fine institutions, and wish them many visitors and exciting programs with the space shuttle fleet."

An emotional Bolden then added, "For all of them, take good care of our vehicles. They've served the nation well, and we at NASA have a deep and abiding relationship and love affair with them that's hard to put into words."

Visibly absent from the announcement list was the home of the astronaut corps., the Johnson Space Center.

Employees and local politicians near Houston had hoped an orbiter would become a new resident at the space center.

NASA's first and second space-rated orbiters, Columbia and Challenger, were lost during flight in 2003 and 1986, respectively.

Most of what remains of both orbiters following their break up as Challenger launched on January 28, 1986, and Columbia re-entered the earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003, are interned and sealed in old missile silos at Cape Canaveral.

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