In the immediate aftermath of NASA’s announcement Tuesday, officials from Ohio and Texas, who were both left empty-handed, reacted differently to the bad news: while Ohio officials criticized the decision on geographic grounds and immediately issued a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking them to review the decision-making progress, Texas officials vented their frustration, pinning the blame on partisan politics. Now, though, Texas legislators are backing their anger with political action.
On Thursday 18 members of the state’s congressional delegation sent a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden asking a series of questions about the decisionmaking process and how Houston could be passed over for one of the four orbiters. “No city in the world deserves a shuttle more than Houston, certainly not New York,” Rep. Pete Olson said a release accompanying the letter. “Houston deserves answers to how this decision was made. Administrator Bolden has some explaining to do.”
In the text of the letter (also available here), the Texas delegation seems willing to admit that the Smithsonian, KSC, and even the California Science Center in Los Angeles are reasonable homes for shuttles, as they make no specific mention of them in the letter. But New York? That’s another story, apparently, as most of the questions are about the decision to award Enterprise to the Intrepid museum in New York City. “For what specific reasons was the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City chosen?” reads one question. “Are there any historical connections between NASA and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum? Are there any historical connections between NASA and New York City in general?” reads another. Other questions focus on the logistics of getting the shuttle to the Intrepid museum and the costs involved.
The letter concludes with a warning: “If there is no rational explanation based on definable factors for the choice of the Intrepid museum in New York City, and that the transfer of the Enterprise to that location will cost significantly more than a transfer to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, we will do everything in our power in Congress, including legislation to prevent funding of the transfer, to stop this wasteful decision. ”
In fact, there’s already a move to override NASA’s decision. On Thursday Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced HR 1536, titled “To provide for the disposition of the retiring Space Shuttles.” The text of the legislation is not yet posted, but according to the Los Angeles Times, the bill would “strip New York of its shuttle and give one to Houston.” It’s not immediately clear why Rep. Chaffetz, from a state not involved in the shuttle competition, introduced the bill, but it does have nine cosponsors, including members from Texas, Florida, and California.
Update 9:30 am: Rep. Chaffetz’s office has issued a press release about the legislation. In it, the congressman states, “Instead of relying on political guidance systems, these decisions must be steered by history and logic.” The legislation would give JSC “Shuttle Endeavor” [sic] while the California Science Center, which was to get Endeavour, would instead get Enterprise; the Smithsonian and KSC would keep Discovery and Atlantis, respectively.