Houston has a problem; it feels left out.
The Space City is known for its deep history involving space travel. The Johnson Space Center, originally named the Manned Space Center, is the place where astronauts have trained since 1961. People come to see countless space related tourist attractions. The words Houston, we have a problem, are iconic. Even the city's sports teams are named The Astros and The Rockets.
Yet NASA decided to pass over Houston and chose New York City, Los Angeles, Orlando and Washington D.C. as the last landing fields for the retired space shuttles. After 30 years and more than 100 missions, the space shuttle program is being ended and museums in each of those cities will get to house the spacecraft.
Discovery is headed National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington D.C. Endeavour is going to the California Space Center in Los Angeles. Atlantis will stay put at the Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Complex in Orlando. A fourth space shuttle, the prototype Enterprise, will be headed to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York.None of them are headed to the JSC.
Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Representative Kevin Brady spoke out against the space agency in response to its decision. Throughout its 30-year history, the program has been managed in Houston, each mission has been controlled by the talented professionals at Mission Control, and astronauts who have flown on shuttles have been trained and lived in the community. Hutchinson said in a statement.
It is unthinkable that the home of human space flight would not represent the ideal home for a retired orbiter. I specifically asked NASA Administrator (Charles) Bolden to follow the law, which stipulates priority should be given to communities with strong historical ties to NASA, and in particular the shuttle program, she added.
In a statement, Brady called the decision tawdry politics. He said despite the failures of President Obama's administration, the decision didn't diminish the role Houston played in the space shuttle program.
The anger from Texas-based politicians wasn't just on one side of the political spectrum. Houston's mayor Annise Parker, a Democrat, also criticised it. This is certainly disappointing, but not entirely unexpected as the Administration has been hinting that Houston would not be a winner in this political competition. I am disappointed for Houston, the JSC family and the survivors of the Columbia and Challenger missions who paid the ultimate price for the advancement of space exploration.
Even Johnson Space Center director Michael L. Coats, was none too pleased. Although the orbiters were built in California and launched in Florida, I am personally disappointed that the Houston area was not awarded one of the space shuttle orbiters. Houston had a strong case: the Space Shuttle Program has been located here at JSC since its inception, the astronauts live and train here, and of course all the shuttle missions have been controlled from our Mission Control Center, he said in a statement.
Houston was not the only place irked by NASA's decision. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) expressed his disappointment that the National Air Force Museum at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton wasn't selected.
NASA ignored the intent of Congress and the interests of taxpayers. 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, Senator Brown said in a statement.
The Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Ill., which was also considered for the shuttles, was less angry with NASA's decision. The museum received a simulator instead. Adler president Paul H. Knappenberger Jr. offered his congratulations to the winning cities.
NASA Administrator Bolden said approximately 24 cities were vying to house the space shuttles. He said they chose New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and Washington D.C. because they provide the greatest number of people with the best opportunity to share in the history and accomplishments of NASA's remarkable Space Shuttle Program.