No space shuttle for Seattle

Retired orbiters headed for Smithsonian, Florida, NY, and LA

Seattle’s Museum of Flight will not be the home to one of NASA’s retiring space shuttles.

Instead, the museum will receive the full fuselage trainer, used by every shuttle astronaut, including Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, the former Museum of Flight chief who led the effort to bring a shuttle to Seattle.


Astronaut Charles Hobaugh occupies his station on the flight deck during in a Full Fuselage Trainer session in 2009. Visitors will get to sit in the same seat when the trainer arrives at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Photo: NASA.

“While we are happy for the cities which have been awarded one the retiring space shuttles, we are thrilled to receive the full-fuselage shuttle trainer,” said Doug King, Museum of Flight president and CEO. “Not only is it a unique and exciting educational artifact to have as a centerpiece of our Space Gallery, but, unlike the actual shuttles, we will be able to allow the public to walk inside it and actually see where the shuttle astronauts trained.”

Governor Chris Gregoire expressed disappointment with the decision, but likes the trainer.

“Visitors will not be allowed in the other shuttles and this trainer is a true win for our dynamic museum,” Gregoire said. “It will help inspire young people to the adventure of space and to the excitement of a career in science, technology, engineering and math.

NASA Administrator, Charlie Bolden, made the “orbiter disposition announcement” this morning at the Kennedy Space Center during a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle launch. It wasn’t a big surprise that Bolden delighted the home-town crowd.

“First, here at the Kennedy Space Center, where every shuttle mission and so many other historic human space flights have originated, we’ll showcase my old friend, Atlantis,” Bolden announced to wild applause. “Not only will the workers who sent it into space so many times have a chance to still see it, the millions of visitors who come here every year to learn more about space and to be a part of the excitement of exploration will be able to see what is still a great rarity: an actual, flown space vehicle.”

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will receive the shuttle Discovery, also not a surprise as this has been widely assumed. The suspense came with the other two shuttles. Endeavor, now on the launch pad awaiting its final mission, will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, “only a few miles from the site of the old Rockwell plant where the shuttle was developed and from where its construction was managed,” Bolden said. Finally Enterprise, now at the Smithsonian, was awarded to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York.

Bolden was emotional at times during his talk, in part because of his own close involvement with the shuttle program; he flew on four missions, twice as commander. He’s also had to give out lots of bad news to the runners up. “It’s been a rough day,” he said.

“There were many, many worthy institutions that requested an orbiter and only four to go around,” Bolden acknowledged. “Many of the applicant institutions who did not receive an orbiter will receive significant shuttle hardware and artifacts to help bring to life this dynamic chapter of our nation’s space exploration history for their many visitors. People from across our nation and around the world will continue to learn from these amazing vehicles and the stories of their crews and their missions.”

The trainer will go into the Museum of Flight’s Space Gallery, which is currently under construction.