Blasting off to the highest bidder.

Last week there were used battleships for sale on e-bay, this week we’ve got used space shuttles. But not going as cheaply as the warships and not being turned into pots and pans either.

NASA has been trying to flog these space shuttles for a while now; they have already been marked down from $42M to $28M. And it looks like they may have finally found a new, earth-bound, home.

It’s the thirtieth anniversary of the space shuttle voyages and the fiftieth anniversary of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human in space.

Twenty museums were vying to get one of the old space ships. Places like the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio; Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City; Museum of Flight in Seattle; Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Adler Planetarium in Chicago all wanted one. It’s a great tourist draw and an important piece of American history. Especially since there won’t be any more space shuttles. Former President Bush cut the programme in 2004 and President Obama favours a different direction for the space programme.

Discovery, Endeavour and Enterprise are all up for grabs, along with an existing, working shuttle (Atlantis) and various other bits and pieces.

The winners have been announced.

Enterprise, the first orbiter built (1977), will move to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

Discovery will go to the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. Discovery was the first to be retired. It has completed 39 missions into space and 5,247 orbits. It will have to be transported there, but first it has to be drained of toxic fuel and have the contaminated plumbing removed. NASA also wants to pull out some pieces for analysis, to help in the development of future spaceships.

Endeavour, which is preparing for its final flight at the end of the month will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Atlantis, which will fly the last planned shuttle mission in June, will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida.

Other museums with get various bits and pieces. The Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum of McMinnville, Ore., and Texas A&M’s Aerospace Engineering Department will get various shuttle simulators. The Museum of Flight in Seattle will get a full fuselage trainer. The nose cap assembly and crew compartment trainer will go to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The flight deck pilot and commander seats go to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and orbital maneuvering system engines go to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center of Huntsville, Ala., National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.

However, no main engines will be included. NASA was trying to sell them for $400,000 to $800,000, but there were no takers. So now they are now offering them free to museums but they have to pay transportation and handling costs.


Photo: NASA, Discovery