Report: NASA made proper pick for retired shuttles

Aug 25, 2011 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer

(AP) -- NASA acted properly when it picked new homes for the retired space shuttles, the space agency's watchdog said Thursday.

The shuttles were awarded in April to museums in suburban Washington, Los Angeles, Cape Canaveral, Fla., and New York, based on recommendations by a special NASA team and a decision by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former shuttle commander.

Congressional and local officials for two of the losing cities - Houston and Dayton - had asked for an investigation, alleging political influences in the bidding process.

"We found no evidence that the team's recommendation or the administrator's decision were tainted by political influence of any other improper consideration," Inspector General Paul Martin wrote in the report released Thursday. "Moreover, we found no attempt by White House officials to direct or influence Bolden's decision making."

The decision was based on attendance, population, funding and the facility. NASA said 13 of the bidders met their requirements and rated those on several categories, giving them a numerical score.

There was a scoring error for the Air Force Museum in Dayton and it should have tied with Cape Canaveral and New York, the inspector general found. But NASA chief Bolden told investigators that had he known about the tie, he still would have stuck with the cities he selected because they had bigger populations and more international visitors. Also Dayton museum officials told him they might not be able to raise enough money.

Space Center Houston next door to Johnson Space Center ranked near the bottom of the list. It scored low for attendance, international visitors, museum accreditation and difficulty transporting a shuttle there. Museums in Chicago, Seattle, Riverside, Calif., San Diego and McMinnville, Ore., all scored higher than Houston.

Bolden, who lived in Houston for many years as an astronaut and Marine and still has a home there, told investigators that personally, "I would have loved to have placed an Orbiter in Houston," but that it had lower attendance and fewer international visitors than the winners.

The 30-year space shuttle program ended with the last flight in July.

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum had already been promised one shuttle for its hangar in Dulles, Va. It will get Discovery, and give up the Enterprise, a test vehicle that never flew in orbit. That will be shipped to the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum in New York City. Atlantis will stay in Cape Canaveral and go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

The Florida and California museums, but not the Smithsonian, will have to pay at least $20 million to make the shuttles that flew in space safe for display - removing toxic materials and fuels - and transportation costs. NASA is picking up the tab for the Smithsonian. The shuttles are all still at Kennedy Space Center being decommissioned.

Explore further: Why don't we search for different life?

More information: NASA Inspector General report: http://bit.ly/re6odG

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Space shuttles will soon be museum pieces

Jul 20, 2011

The end of the US space shuttle program brings the start of a new chapter for the remaining orbiters, which will soon take up residence as museum pieces in Florida, Virginia, California and New York.

NASA ponders future without shuttles

Mar 10, 2008

U.S. space officials are concerned NASA will have to rely on other countries to carry astronauts into space after its three space shuttles are retired.

Recommended for you

Why don't we search for different life?

13 hours ago

If we really want to find life on other worlds, why do we keep looking for life based on carbon and water? Why don't we look for the stuff that's really different?

OSIRIS catches glimpse of Rosetta's shadow

14 hours ago

Several days after Rosetta's close flyby of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 14 February 2015, images taken on this day by OSIRIS, the scientific imaging system on board, have now been downlinked to Earth. ...

Kamikaze comet loses its head

15 hours ago

Like coins, most comet have both heads and tails. Occasionally, during a close passage of the Sun, a comet's head will be greatly diminished yet still retain a classic cometary outline. Rarely are we left ...

NASA spacecraft nears historic dwarf planet arrival

Mar 02, 2015

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned new images captured on approach to its historic orbit insertion at the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn will be the first mission to successfully visit a dwarf planet when it enters ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.