Folks in Texas who are close to the space program were not happy from the get-go. Here they were, home to the Johnson Space Center, Mission Control, the Astronaut Corp., and they didn’t get one of NASA’s retired space shuttles.
They were angry. “No city in the world deserves an orbiter more than Houston, Texas,” said U.S. Representative Pete Olson from Texas.
Now, they are even angrier. “It’s a bait and switch,” U.S. Representative Ted Poe told CNN. Why does Poe say that?
At a cost of nearly $30 million dollars a piece, dozens of museums bid for one of the retired space shuttles. New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on the Hudson River was one of the winners. It gets Enterprise, a test shuttle that never flew into space, currently at the Smithsonian.
That’s what got Texans angry to begin with. Poe says, “New York - God Bless them - they’re a wonderful city, but they have no connection to the space program and no connection to NASA, so why would the shuttle go to New York? It’s like putting the Statue of Liberty in Omaha.”
What set Texans off again and sparked the “bait and switch” remark is the Intrepid Museum’s plan for housing the shuttle Enterprise.
Back in May of 2010, before the shuttles were awarded, here’s what the museum’s director Susan Marenoff-Zausner told CNN: “On the west end of the pier we currently have the Concorde. And we would look to shift the placement of the Concorde and place the shuttle in that spot.”
Well, all that has apparently changed. The new plan is to construct a building for the Enterprise not on the pier but across a busy highway on land the museum doesn’t yet own. The land is now a parking lot next to a car wash, warehouses and a bagel shop. A walk bridge over the highway would connect the main museum to the Enterprise Building.
Back when the museum was still lobbying for a shuttle, officials there were more than anxious to talk with us. Now, they turned down our request for an interview. Instead, they issued a statement, “We look forward to Enterprise’s arrival at the Intrepid, which will quickly become New York City’s newest landmark and seen by millions of visitors to our great city. While we continue to be in the planning stages, we remain on track with both our logistics and our fundraising.”
But, it’s not what they promised. Says Representative Poe: “Time to re-open the bidding process again because the person that got the bid really isn’t fulfilling the obligation that they agreed to. So, re-evaluate it.”
You often hear the expression, “location, location, location.” Location is one of the primary reasons NASA selected New York. The space agency wants its retired shuttles to be seen by as many eyeballs as possible. New York has a huge advantage there.
NASA’s Administrator Charles Bolden seems fine with New York’s new plan and location saying, “I don’t tell them how to suck eggs. You know, they gave us a plan. They told us they would have the money. They gave us a schedule and everything and as far as I know, they’re on schedule and so I trust them that they’re gonna deliver what they said.”
It will be at least a year before any of the retired shuttles are delivered to museums. Atlantis will stay in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour goes to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The Smithsonian gets Discovery. To make room for Discovery, Enterprise has to move to New York.
If its new building isn’t ready, Enterprise would likely be housed in a climate controlled tent at the city’s JFK Airport.