This story was updated at 3:35 p.m. EDT.
WASHINGTON — NASA announced on the 30th anniversary of Space Shuttle Columbia’s first flight that the agency’s four shuttle orbiters will be put on permanent public display in California, Florida, New York and at the Smithsonian just outside the nation’s capital.
The selections were unveiled by NASA Administrator CharlesApril 12 at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, where Space Shuttle Endeavour is poised to launch on its final mission late this month.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center just outside Washington will be given Space Shuttle Discovery to replace Enterprise, an approach-and-landing shuttle that will be moved to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan.
Space Shuttle Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. All six NASA space shuttles were assembled in Palmdale, Calif.
Space Shuttle Atlantis will go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
More than 20 cities submitted proposals to NASA for hosting one of the shuttle orbiters after the program ends later this year. Among those was Houston, home to Johnson Space Center, NASA’s lead human spaceflight center.
Lawmakers from the jilted states were quick to express their disapproval of NASA’s choices.
“There is no question Houston should have been selected as a final home for one of the orbiters — even Administrator Bolden stated as much,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is an affront to the thousands of dedicated men and women at Johnson Space Center, the greater Houston community and the State of Texas, and I’m deeply disappointed with the Administration’s misguided decision.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and four other Ohio lawmakers have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate NASA’s selection process. Dayton had sought an orbiter for display at the U.S. Air Force Museum there.
“NASA ignored the intent of Congress and the interests of taxpayers,” Brown said in a press statement. “NASA was directed to consider regional diversity when determining shuttle locations. Unfortunately, it looks like regional diversity amounts to which coast you are on, or which exit you use on I-95. Even more insulting to taxpayers is that having paid to build the shuttles, they will now be charged to see them at some sites.”
At a Senate budget hearing the day before, Brown quizzed Bolden on NASA’s selection criteria. Bolden said he would personally be making the decision that evening after getting back to NASA.
“This process has been as pure as I could make it and free of any political involvement,” Bolden said. “I can say that until I’m blue in the face, but there will always be someone who will have the opinion that that was not the case.”
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) also took advantage of Bolden’s appearance before the Senate Appropriations commerce, justice, science committee to get in some last-minute lobbying on behalf of Texas, reminding Bolden that Congress enacted legislation directing NASA to take into account a site’s historical relationship with manned spaceflight when making its selection.
“The 10 criteria that were used by the people that … made the recommendations to me did not include the prioritization from the law,” Bolden told Hutchison. “I was aware of it, and so I think you will find when the announcement is made that every place receiving an orbiter has a historical connection to human spaceflight, and in fact, I think you will find that every one of them has a historical connection to the space shuttle.”
Olga Dominguez, NASA’s associate administrator for strategic infrastructure, said April 12 that New York’s historical connections to the space program include the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier used during the water recovery of Gemini- and Mercury-era spacecraft, and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a climate change research lab on the campus of New York University. She said NASA’s selection criteria put a premium on the host cities’ plans for ensuring the orbiters are seen by the widest number of people.
“The locations were recommended based on best value to the American public, including education and outreach as well as domestic and international access,” she told reporters during a teleconference following Bolden’s announcement.