Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Will U.S. Air Force Museum Receive an Orbiter?

An artist's concept of a Space Shuttle orbiter on display at the U.S. Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio.

The Dayton Daily News reports that a provision in the proposed FY 2012 Air Force budget would fund the receipt of Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis by the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

The Obama administration asked Congress for $14 million to transfer the space shuttle Atlantis to the Air Force Museum here, a strong sign the Dayton region may land one of three orbiters when they are retired this summer.

Although NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will make the final decision on where to locate Atlantis, the request — tucked deep inside the administration’s 2012 budget — suggests that the White House and the Air Force favor the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force as a final destination for Atlantis.

During a meeting Tuesday night with Rep. Steve Austria, R-Beavercreek, Bolden said he was not aware of the Air Force’s request for money and said no decision on the shuttle would be made before April. But Bolden accepted an invitation from Austria to visit Wright-Patt and the museum before making a decision.

Discovery is reportedly destined for the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., which already has Enterprise. The flight test orbiter would go elsewhere, as would Endeavour.

May 1, 1979 ... The orbiter Enterprise rolls out to Launch Complex 39.

Since Enterprise only flew at Edwards Air Force Base in California, it seems logical to me that Dayton should receive Enterprise, as it's the only orbiter with a pure Air Force connection. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex also has submitted a bid, so if the budget scenario plays out KSC would receive Enterprise or Endeavour. Enterprise does have some KSC history, having been used for mating tests when the Shuttle launch pads were constructed in the 1970s. But KSC deserves an orbiter that flew in space.

UPDATE February 18, 2011In an interview with the Florida Today editorial board, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that under federal law he will make the final decision where the Shuttles will be retired.

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