Congress, Lobbying, NASA

Shuttle diplomacy

In a week NASA administrator Charles Bolden is scheduled to announce which locations will receive the shuttle orbiters Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour when the fleet is retired later this year. As you might expect, those sites vying for the orbiters are making one last push to convince NASA that they’re the best site to host one of the three orbiters (it’s widely assumed Discovery will go to the National Air and Space Museum, but it will, in turn, transfer Enterprise to another museum.) In Houston, local politicians and relatives of Columbia and Challenger astronauts are holding a rally Wednesday to show their support for that city’s bid to win a shuttle. In Dayton they continue to weight their chances against the competition for a shuttle at the National Museum of the Air Force there. And Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) told Florida Today “matter-of-factly” that “One of the shuttles will have to go to KSC.”

The problem, of course, is that there are more qualified sites that can make strong cases for why they should have a shuttle than there are shuttles available: in other words, some will be very unhappy come next Tuesday. They–and their advocates in Congress–will want to know how NASA could have possibly overlooked the merits of their offer. All that could cause complications for NASA.

An editorial in the Washington Post this weekend noted that one of the issues about the shuttle selection process is the lack of transparency in that process: exactly how the various proposals are being considered and how the decision will be made is unclear. That lack of detail stems “no doubt from a desire to avoid pressure from the dozens of ‘shuttle-boosting’ campaigns now making headlines,” the editorial notes, but adds that “this isolation has reached the point that it is hard to tell on what basis the decision is being made.”

“It may be difficult to keep politics out of this process,” the editorial concludes. “But the least we can ask for is a level playing field for the potential recipient sites and transparency in how the decision is reached. The shuttles are honors to be bestowed, not prizes to be bought.” But many consider them just that: prizes to be won or lost, and those who “lose” them in next week’s selection may be left with hard feelings towards the agency and/or its leadership.

12 comments to Shuttle diplomacy

  • amightywind

    You should read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand to fully understand how pathetic this exercise is and how telling of the direction of our society. Looters indeed…

  • Charlie Bolden will be here at KSC on April 12 the day the announcement is made. The general consensus is he wouldn’t be here unless KSC is receiving an orbiter.

    With the NASM receiving Discovery, that leaves one orbiter for elsewhere and Enterprise moving from NASM to another location.

  • Coastal Ron

    Too bad they can’t make them into traveling exhibits. They’d get more visitors that way.

  • NASA Fan

    Bolden marches to Obama’s drum. Surely, since Obama is all about transparency, Bolden will surely see the light and make the process fully transparent.

  • CharlesHouston

    Certainly a real Shuttle would be the best thing to have, but a good museum (with plentiful funding of course) could easily build a far more tourist-friendly mockup. They will not allow tourists inside of an actual Shuttle, but a good mockup could be accessible even to less-mobile visitors. I love seeing actual aircraft but there is no substitute to getting inside of one and experiencing the cramped quarters.

  • Jules Barkman

    No doubt the NASA leadership will provide their rationale when they make the announcement. That way their decisions can be judged fair, or not.

    The criteria should be geographic location, allowing the greatest number of people to visit what they paid for, and ties to the program/vehicle. If the criteria says that the choice is that close, that there are no discriminating factors, then Bolden and his buddies can draw straws in front of the public and the world on TV and the internet and declare that it was nothing more than pure chance who won the lottery.

    People will be watching their decision process closely.

  • guest

    Personally I don’t know why KSC needs another one. They have two full scale Orbiter models that look just as good as an original. KSC has a largely non-flight Saturn rocket, but no one knows the difference. Yet they have the only real completed, capable of a moon landing LM and a back-up, flight ready CSM. In the right setting, it makes little difference whether its an original or a model.

    JSC has the first test LM, but few recognize the difference between it and
    the later production models. JSC has the last CSM, but finished by the Smithsonian to the unfinished condition in which it came from the factory so it doesn’t look much a like a real one. Probably the best looking LM is at the Grumman museum on Long Island, but it was literally made from spare parts.

    Likewise for MSFC. they have brilliant displays, widely enjoyed, made out Saturn V and Shuttle prototype test articles. The crowds that see them have little or no realization of the pedigree.

    For the northern states, Washington, Dayton, and Seattle are pretty evenly spaced out although a bit too far north. One will have to go to either KSC or JSC. I am not certain that 99% of the crowd will notice a difference between a real one and the imitations KSC already has. The choice therefore is pretty easy.


    “In a week NASA administrator Charles Bolden is scheduled to announce which locations will receive the shuttle orbiters Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour when the fleet is retired later this year.”

    In other words, NASA administrator Bolden is managing a garage sale.

    Quaint. And speaks volumes about his uselessness. Review what other administrators were busy with by decade in the month of April in: 1961, 1971, 1981, ’91, and 2001. Still, supervising the disposition of used hardware is a good practice for an antique business in retirement years. . And a chore far below his pay-grade.

    @amightywind wrote @ April 5th, 2011 at 6:45 pm Why bother- you are living amidst the wreckage from it- Greenspan was a Rand fan. Sober up, Windy. Reaganomics has been a disaster for the space agency– and the nation.

  • amightywind

    Sober up, Windy. Reaganomics has been a disaster for the space agency– and the nation.

    How’s that socialism workin’ for ya? Inflation, growth stagnation, mass unemployment, government spending at 25% GDP and rising. Pension defaults imminent. Yes, we can! No, if the nation adapts the Ryan Plan, tax rates will be lowered and the tax base broadened. The 50% of tax payers who pay nothing will have to pay in. Government austerity will free capital for productive investment and employment. For the freeloader class who are use to getting money for nothing, things will not seem so well.

  • Vladislaw

    You are going to try and blame the current administration for inflation and mass unemployment?


    @amightywind wrote @ April 6th, 2011 at 12:03 pm
    =yawn= The space agency as well as the United States, began its steep spiral down on January 20, 1981. Three decades of hell. You cannot turn a R&D organization like NASA into a profit center anymore than you can the post office. Challenger and Columbia should have taught you that lesson. They’re a function of government and the cost of part of the price of operating in the modern world. Trickledown economics doesn’t work and you cannot operate a superpower- or a space agency, civilian or military, on 35% tax rates. Now Ryan is proposing 25%. It’s silly. Sober up.

  • Space4US

    Consider ferrying the shuttles around the country on their ways to their eventual homes. Those costs would have to be added to the cost that each winning museum has to pay. This would be good lead-in PR for each eventual exhibit and it would allow the American people to take pride in the incredible vehicle that has served in Space 4 the US so well.

    There should be time to do this while the surrounding exhibit areas are prepared. Quite a few of the NASA centers have adjacent airfields that could handle the flights.

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