NASA Decision On Retiring Shuttles Imminent, Seattle
Seattle’s Museum of Flight broke ground Tuesday on the
first phase of its new 15,500-square-foot “Human Space Flight
Gallery.” While the Museum says it has long planned to expand
its space exhibits, the organization hopes the new gallery will
lead to the facility being awarded one of the retiring United
States Space Shuttles.
Joining retired astronaut and Museum CEO Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar
and Interim President and former President of Microsoft, Michael
Hallman, was Washington State Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen. Lt.
Governor Owen spoke to the importance of the Space Gallery to
Washington State and the greater Northwest, as both an educational
beacon for science and engineering, as well as a stimulus to
tourism, the fourth largest industry in the State.
Space Shuttle Endeavour
The new Space Gallery, costing approximately $12 million, will
be located on the west side of East Marginal Way, across the street
from the main museum campus. The State legislature earlier approved
$3 million in capital support to build the Gallery, with the
remaining coming from private foundations and individual donations.
While a decision has not yet been made on where these last Shuttles
will retire, having a climate-controlled building in place for the
Space Shuttle is among the requirements that NASA established in
its 2008 and 2009 Requests for Information (RFI) to the public.
Space Shuttle Atlantis
“The Shuttle is among the rarest of space
artifacts,” said Interim Museum President and former
President of Microsoft, Michael Hallman. “The possibility of
securing one is very exciting, and would be a tremendous
opportunity for the state of Washington in terms of the economy,
tourism and the educational impact this could have on our
community. We believe our institution has the finest education,
curatorial, and exhibits staff to be found anywhere and we believe
we’re uniquely qualified to be an outstanding caretaker for
this incredible piece of American history.”
“Education will be central to the exhibit preparation of
the Space Shuttle,” said retired astronaut and Museum CEO,
Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar. “The Museum of Flight is one of the
largest non-profit air and space museums in the nation, serving
more than 120,000 K-12 youth annually through its science,
technology, engineering, and math (STEM) based educational
programs. The Space Gallery, and the Space Shuttle, if awarded to
Washington state, will be another centerpiece to deliver these
important educational programs in a multi-state region. We also
believe this can inspire the next generation of scientists and
engineers, so that we can provide solutions to 21st century
problems, and help the nation remain economically
Space Shuttle Discovery
Of the three active Shuttles, one – Discovery – is
slated for display at the Smithsonian’s Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy
Museum in Washington, D.C. The three retiring shuttles, the
Enterprise, Atlantis and Endeavour, will be distributed to other
destinations across the nation.
The decision from NASA is dependent on several criteria, with a
principal focus on K-12 education and inspiration to Science,
Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers. Other
requirements for the applying institutions include a commitment to
educate the public through demonstrated experience in exhibit and
display development, a sufficiently long enough runway on which to
land the 747 that will carry the Shuttles to their ultimate
destinations, and being located near a large metropolitan area.
“We believe we are uniquely qualified in all of these
areas,” Dunbar said.