"New York?!, we have a problem"

posted Apr 14, 2011, 9:40 PM by Stephen Zenter

This past Tuesday was a celebration of multiple milestones in human spaceflight.  On April 12, 1961 Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space.  Fifty years ago, Yuri made a 108-minute orbital flight around the earth in the Vostak 1 spacecraft.  “Yuri’s Night” celebrations can be found around the world each year to celebrate the occasion.  On the morning of April 12, 1981 astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen flew aboard a revolutionary new spacecraft that would redefine low-earth orbit and inspire generations of human spaceflight.  The NASA family was proud to celebrate the 30th anniversary of STS-1 this week.

While the world celebrated these occasions in human spaceflight, we all awaited the final decision of where the four Space Shuttle crafts would be housed after retirement.  NASA Administrator Charles Bolden delivered a speech during the STS-1 30th anniversary celebration at KSC, at which time he announced the decision.  As expected, Discovery’s retirement home will be the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.  Currently housed there is Space Shuttle Enterprise.  Kennedy Space Center will get Atlantis (my personal favorite of the orbiter fleet).  Enterprise will be moved to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, and Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  You may ask yourself, “What about Houston?”  All of us at JSC asked the same question.

We were snubbed.  Not only were we snubbed, but our consolation prize of “flown pilot and commander seats”  while our Shuttle simulators make their way to other museums around the country, was kind of insulting.  Many people blame Houston and Texas politicians.  Houstonians and Texans felt we simply deserved one and that there was no question that one of the birds would land here at JSC.  Perhaps we did too little, too late.  I still wonder why a state that has no ties to NASA - New York - gets a Shuttle while the home of the program - the place where the program was conceptualized, the vehicles were designed, the crews and flight controllers were trained, and every single Space Shuttle mission was controlled - gets a couple of used chairs.  To be honest, I hate politics.  Maybe that why it gets under my skin that politics have obviously influenced a decision by the NASA administration, which according to the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was to be based on “…an historical relationship with either the launch, flight operations, or processing of the Space Shuttle orbiters...”  Former Space Shuttle program director, Wayne Hale, has some interesting thoughts on his blog http://waynehale.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/why-houston-did-not-get-a-shuttle/