Friday, April 15, 2011

Adams and Posey Want to Dictate Where Retired Orbiters Go

Space Coast representatives Sandy Adams (pictured) and Bill Posey want to dictate which locations receive the retired Space Shuttle orbiters.

Space Coast representatives Sandy Adams and Bill Posey are co-sponsors of legislation that would dictate which locations receive the retired Space Shuttle orbiters.

The legislation would ignore existing law which gave the final decision to the NASA Administrator.

The text of the legislation is not online, but when available it will be here.

Adams and Posey are two of nine co-sponsors of H.R. 1536, titled the Space Shuttle Retirement Act. The bill was introduced by Republican Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz. As with most things Utah, Chaffetz's district is the home of ATK's Space Systems Group. ATK makes the Solid Rocket Boosters used on the Space Shuttle and would have made the first stage on the now-cancelled Ares I.

According to Chaffetz's press release:

NASA was created by Congress in 1958. This federal agency remains under the purview of Congress. Congress has an obligation to determine the retirement location of NASA shuttles, as these American icons are owned by taxpayers.

And yet he fails to acknowledge that Congress already gave that authority to the NASA Administrator.

Chaffetz's press release says the bill would dictate these locations for the orbiters:

* Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas: Shuttle Endeavor [misspelled in the original]

* The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Virginia: Shuttle Discovery

* The California Science Center in Los Angeles, California: Shuttle Enterprise

* The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida: Shuttle Atlantis

H.R. 1536 would seize Endeavour from the California Science Center and give it to Houston. It would then take away Enterprise from the U.S.S. Intrepid museum in New York City and send it as a consolation prize to California.

UPDATE April 15, 2011 1:15 PM EDTFormer NASA flight director and Space Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale writes why Houston didn't get an orbiter:

Houston didn’t get an orbiter because Houston didn’t deserve it ...

Houston is blasé about the shuttles. Houston and Texas have come to regard NASA and JSC as entitlements. We deserve JSC and the shuttle just because of who we are ...

No disrespect to those who spearheaded the effort to bring the shuttle here, but the response was lackluster. The local politicians gave lip service, some weak letters to the NASA administrator and little else. We got a limp editorial or two in the local newspaper. The movers and shakers downtown barely lifted a finger. Its hard to tell if Austin and the Texas Legislature even knew what was happening. A rally at city hall was poorly attended, too little, too late, and totally ineffective.

You can tell that Texas regards involvement with NASA as an entitlement by the evidence: when was the last time a sitting governor came to JSC? I know the answer: Ann Richards in 1995. When was the last time the Houston mayor bothered to visit JSC? Anybody remember?

Other states have strong programs to bring space investments to their states; Texas has virtually nothing.

UPDATE April 17, 2011A guest commentary on the Houston Chronicle web site by a 20-year Shuttle employee in Houston offers his own observations on why Houston lost:

... {B]ecause there are only a limited number of these pieces, there has to be a way to be "fair" in awarding them, so it's up to the museums to submit the best bid. If a museum wants something, it puts in a bid in accordance with the published rules. If Houston did not get an orbiter, it's because the Space Center Houston bid was not considered good enough. That includes two important factors: facilities and tourism. With limited number of other space artifacts to be distributed (engines, simulators, mockups, etc.), according to the rules made available at the time, the museum had to bid on those too. If Houston did not get a simulator, it's because either the Space Center Houston bid was sub-par or they didn't bid on the item at all. See a pattern developing here? Maybe someone assumed that Houston would automatically get something because it's right next to JSC. But Space Center Houston is a separate entity that does not automatically get JSC's hand-me-downs. How bad could their bid have been that they didn't get anything except a pair of seats?

... [L]ook at what how Space Center Houston displays its already-existing space flight hardware. The last major artifact to be put (back) on display was the restored Saturn V, which used to sit outside in the elements until a restoration was performed. While the conservators did an outstanding job on the restoration, someone did a lousy job on the building that houses it. It's little more than a corrugated tin shack (see photos taken during the construction). If a new, better, more permanent building was to be constructed after the restoration, well, it's been years already. Outside of the rocket itself, the only other things in the building are a wall panel for each of the Apollo missions containing a crew photo, a patch, and a description of the mission.

UPDATE Aparil 17, 2011 — You might want to look at this overview on of the various proposals. You can judge for yourself which were the most dramatic presentations of an orbiter. Houston's proposal looks like they were just going to park an orbiter on the floor. The same with the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton. Neither appears particularly inspired.


  1. When was the last time Chuck Schumer came to JSC?

  2. How do you justify mid-American families traveling 20 plus hours (two days with children because of an overnight stay) to either coast? Most do not have the means or are able to travel long distances. New York is 4 hours away from Virginia. From your statement Mr. Hale you are more concerned about being wooed than inspiring the children and their exposure to these engineering marvels.