Decision nears on shuttle bid; flight museum still optimistic
Seattle's Museum of Flight's bid for a retired space shuttle got a bit more difficult Thursday with NASA's announcement that agency Chief Charles Bolden will travel to Florida's Kennedy Space Center Tuesday to announce the future homes of the four shuttles, a "pretty good indicator" that Florida will get one.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Getting a NASA space shuttle for Seattle's Museum of Flight might just have gotten a little bit more difficult.
NASA announced Thursday that agency Chief Charles Bolden will travel to Florida's Kennedy Space Center Tuesday to announce the retirement homes of NASA's four space shuttles — sought by some two dozen museums across the country — as the program comes to an end this year.
Bolden's choice of location to make his 10 a.m. (Seattle time) announcement may be a "pretty good indicator" that the Kennedy Space Center, one of the sites competing for a shuttle, will get one, said Doug King, president and CEO of Seattle's Museum of Flight.
Selection of the Kennedy Space Center would come as no surprise, considering that every NASA space-shuttle mission has been launched from there.
But with the shuttle Discovery already offered to the Smithsonian Institution, that leaves just two shuttles — and more than 20 potential sites.
"I'm not going to throw stones at any of the other great competitors," King said. "I don't know how many serious proposals there are, but it's safe to say there are more than four."
The Johnson Space Center in Houston is seeking a shuttle, as is California's Palmdale Plant 42, original assembly site for the shuttles.
Backers of Seattle's bid emphasize the area's rich aerospace history, the fact that more than 26 astronauts have Northwest ties, and the fact that the Seattle area produced Boeing 747s, the craft used to transport space shuttles.
Not only that, but work is well under way on the $12 million Space Gallery that could hold the shuttle.
Earlier this week, the state's entire 11-member congressional delegation sent a letter to Bolden, touting the logic of Seattle as a shuttle home, and asking to be informed immediately if any "new criteria" were added into the selection process.
"I would say I feel good," King said. "The museum is certainly qualified ... . I think we're at the point where if the decision gets made on the merits, we're there."
King said the Space Gallery, across the street from the Museum of Flight main building, was in the works even before NASA invited museums to apply for a space shuttle, and will proceed with or without the shuttle.
Among its attractions will be a shuttle trainer, which visitors will be able to go inside to see how crews learned to operate the vehicle. The museum also has moon rocks, an Apollo space capsule and a Martian lander.
Last summer, former astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, who grew up in the Yakima Valley, resigned as the museum's CEO to lead Wings Over Washington, a museum affiliate focused on education initiatives and on bringing a space shuttle to Washington state.
Museum staffers said Dunbar is in Scotland this week and unavailable for comment.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Seattle Times news researcher David Turim contributed to this report, which also includes information from Times archives.
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