That’s right. NASA’s base in Houston, Texas, the home of manned space flight will not receive a shuttle to display at Johnson Space Center. The Air and Space Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Virginia will receive one, as will the Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center.
I’m a space brat. I was raised about a mile from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. I used to ride my bike around the giant campus. I’ve seen the giant training pool. I knew astronauts and went to school with their kids. I’d estimate at least a third of the kids at my high school had at least one parent who worked for NASA, either directly or as a contractor. My father-in-law was on the team that designed the flight controllers for the shuttle, and my wife flew the shuttle simulator at the ripe age of 12 – and she landed it successfully. When the Colombia broke apart on re-entry, NASA Rd 1, a major road in the area, was packed with people passing the entrance to JSC, many parking to leave flowers or just talk with fellow space-junkies. For over a year, fresh flowers were visible on that corner.
Houston loves their space program, and was instrumental in the success of the manned spaceflight program for the US. Now that we’re removing “manned” from that phrase, the area is losing a bit of business, but that doesn’t mean that the people whose sweat kept us at the top of our space game are going to forget what they did, nor should we.
But NASA overlords have decided to ignore the home of Mission Control, instead giving the shuttle to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The other location that was up for receiving the gift of Shuttle was the National Museum of the Air Force, in Dayton Ohio. Even that makes more sense than California, especially since it isn’t an Air or Space museum. The people who visit won’t fully appreciate the work that went behind it, because they didn’t live it.
The same holds true for New York. While this location is at least has air & space in it’s name, it has been noted that New York’s contribution to the space program pales in comparison to that of Houston, or of the Air Force, which holds it’s museum in Dayton, Ohio.
Yet the children of today’s rocket scientists who look to the stars out of wonder and awe will not be able to see what kept us at the forefront of post-atmospheric exploration when they visit mission control. I guess the flight deck seats will have to do. There’s always the Saturn V rocket.
Texas and Ohio have called for an investigation into the selection of these final resting places. While many agree the Kennedy Space Center and the Smithsonian deserve a shuttles, the decision to select New York and California seems to be tied up in politics instead of honoring the work and sacrifices of those tied to the United States Manned Spaceflight Program.