December 18, 2008 in Nation/World

Museums need fat check to land shuttle

By Robert Block Orlando Sentinel
FileAssociated Press photo

The space shuttle Atlantis lands at the Kennedy Space Center in 2006 after a 12-day mission.
(Full-size photo)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA is telling museums across the country that have expressed interest in obtaining a genuine space shuttle that it’s really going to cost them.

How much? A mere $42 million – including $6 million for shipping and handling.

That’s NASA’s price tag for cleaning up each of the three remaining shuttles – now scheduled to be retired in 2010 – and delivering one to an airport near the museum.

NASA has never charged institutions such as the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum – which wants at least one of the orbiters – for rockets, capsules and other artifacts.

But Wednesday, the agency issued a “Request for Information” to gauge museums’ interest in obtaining a shuttle – and the depth of their pockets. At least five locations across the country – including Kennedy Space Center – have expressed interest in displaying an orbiter.

NASA spokesman Mike Curie said that, although NASA generally has not charged museums for relics, the agency recognizes there is now a market for space artifacts.

Other agency insiders say the agency also needs every penny it can get to build the shuttle’s replacement: the Ares I rocket and Orion capsule, which are thought to be over budget.

Places that have expressed interest in displaying a shuttle include the Smithsonian; Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex; Johnson Space Center in Houston; the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.; and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

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