NASA had decided on the final resting sites for its space shuttle fleet, which is being retired after carrying astronauts aloft for 30 years.
The first shuttle built, Enterprise, will move from its current location, a large outpost of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport in Virginia, to a permanent home at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced on April 12. The Virginia center, in turn, will house the shuttle Discovery, which completed its 39th and last mission in March. The shuttle Endeavor, which is scheduled for its final flight in late April, is headed for the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Atlantis, which in 2009 carried astronauts for the last and arguably the most complex of the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions (SN Online, May 11, 2009), will go on display at the Kennedy Space Center’s visitor center near Orlando, Fla., after making the very last shuttle flight in June.
Two other shuttles exploded, killing all or their crews: the Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003. The space agency currently has no other crew vehicle to take humans into space.
NASA also announced that hundreds of shuttle artifacts will be donated to museums and educational institutions around the country. A nose cap assembly and crew compartment trainer will be sent to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio; shuttle simulators will become part of the permanent collections at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore., and Texas A&M’s aerospace engineering Department in College Station.
NASA has published a pamphlet with information about other shuttle artifacts that are available to museums and libraries.
The space agency is also offering shuttle heat shield tiles to schools and universities that want to share space technology with their students. Schools can request a tile online.