Everybody was eager to see where the four space ships who will soon be retired will go; the idea was to chose a museum which somehow has connections with the space program, and where a lot of people can see it. Well, what city has more connections with the space program than Houston ? It seems like a no-brainer. But this wasn’t the case, unfortunately for them, because NASA thought otherwise.
They chose Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, argueing that these are the places where the most people could see them. It came off quite as a surprise, especially to backers of the Houston bid.
“We are really disheartened,” said Richard Allen, president of Space Center Houston. “I don’t think the decision was based on the merits. Houston has a long association with the space shuttle program, of course. All flights were led out of Mission Control at Johnson Space Center, and astronauts who flew aboard the shuttles lived and trained in the community.”
Snubbing the heart of the space program to include the biggest and richest cities, that’s … well, something you would expect from NASA, lately. Even though I’m not connected with Houston in any way, I do believe it was only honest for them to get one of the shuttles, even though they aren’t the biggest city in the race. I think they deserved it, and this came out like a punch to the gut.
“We’re the ones who came up with the concept,” said George Abbey, a former director of Johnson Space Center from 1996 to 2001 who is now at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. “We designed it. We tested it. We operated it. Certainly Houston ought to be number one on the list. Houston wasn’t in the top four.”
It’s my opinion that the decision was also a political one, in which Texas lost, due to the current leaders of the White House and Congres, but NASA strongly denies this.
“I have felt no political pressure at all during this process. I’m apolitical. I’m here to do what is best for NASA,” said Dominguez, assistant administrator for NASA’s Office of Strategic Infrastructure.
But doing what’s best for NASA… that’s a statement that leaves room for interpretation. Either way, the Smithsonian was always going to get a shuttle, that’s easy to see for everybody. Shuttles are launched from Kennedy Space Center, so that makes a good argument too. But for the other ones, things aren’t so clear. They were involved in the space program, just not as much. Anyway, what’s important now is that the space ships are going to be put for display in the cities I told you about, and it would be a crying shame not to go see them if you get the chance.