It's that time, folks. The decommissioning of the Space Transportation System at the 2006 behest of Resident George W Bush is upon us. Discover lands tomorrow from its final mission. Endeavour was stacked today, and rolls out tomorrow for an April 9th launch.
And Atlantis, "my" bird, is set to launch 2 days before my birthday -- I'm scheduling a 4 day hotel vacation over on the cape not to miss it, but I'm hoping it slips onto my birthday. :-}
In the wake of these final landings, the noise is starting to get louder about where the orbiters will end up, after NASA is done pulling out all the nasties. My predictions on this point have been forming up for some time:
Discovery is almost certainly going to end up at the Udvar-Hazy center, at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air And Space Museum. This will displace the currently displayed, but never power-flown, OV-101, Enterprise, which I'll come back to in a minute.
Endeavour has ties to Texas (though I don't at the moment remember what those are), and will likely end up at Space Center Houston, the visitor center at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center there.
Atlantis has similar ties to Florida (which I likewise don't presently remember :-), so I expect that it will end up at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, the launch point for every shuttle mission, either in the space museum on the base, or in the visitor center (though I'm betting on the former).
This game of musical chairs leaves us with one remaining orbiter -- the dynamic test article, OV-101, Enterprise.
Enterprise was named after NASA received a *flood* of letters (and if you're a fan of *anything*, you realize that I am not making up any part of "flood"), mostly from fans of Star Trek... who were then, as some stories tell it, pretty pissed off that it was *not* America's first reusable *space*ship.
She did make the rest of the program possible, though, and was not only 'stacked' atop a tank and SRBs -- three times, in fact (at Marshall, KSC, and Vandenberg's never used SLC-6) -- but according to this piece, there were *active* plans to retrofit and fly her... until late design changes made it less expensive not to take that approach.
So... what to do with Enterprise, when NASM no longer needs her.
I think I have the answer. It won't necessarily be cheap, but I don't think it will be all *that* expensive.
I think that the top 10 or 12 museums that qualify to host a shuttle -- places like the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patt, the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum (a carrier docked to west Manhattan, which already has such delights as a Concorde *and* an SR-71, and I still missed it when I was in NYC last year), Seattle's Museum of Flight, and, hopefully, some places on the Left Coast -- need to pitch a bunch of money into a fund, and use the returns to move Enterprise around, roughly annually, so that everyone gets a chance to see her without having to go to the ends of the earth.
After all... she didn't.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011 @ 10:32 p.m. - Comment