WASHINGTON -- Houston to New York: Displaying a retired space shuttle near a strip joint is no way to treat a precious space artifact.
New York, which was awarded one of four shuttles by NASA in a national competition, is looking at revising its plans for displaying the Enterprise orbiter. And Texas lawmakers, still angry that Houston lost out to the Big Apple, are pushing NASA to reconsider.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, accused New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum of a "bait-and-switch" in proposing to locate the shuttle "next to a bagel joint, a car wash and a strip club."
"The only place this shuttle should be heading to is Houston's 'Space City, U.S.A.,' the historical place for all space exploration," he said on the House floor this week. Houston is home to Johnson Space Center, the control center for manned missions and astronaut training facilities.
Texans are seizing on a recent New York Times article that reported that the New York museum no longer plans to display the Enterprise on a berth on the Hudson River next to the Intrepid aircraft carrier. Instead the shuttle will be displayed in a parking lot on 12th Avenue. The lot is surrounded by a bagel shop, a car wash, warehouses and a strip club.
The New York museum declined to comment beyond a statement from museum President Susan Marenoff-Zausner: "We look forward to having Enterprise at the Intrepid for all New Yorkers and all our visitors to enjoy and continue to be in the planning stages. No final decisions have been made."
Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, whose district includes Johnson Space Center, is circulating a letter among colleagues calling on NASA to reconsider.
And Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said in a statement: "It would be a disgrace if the Enterprise were to end up spending years in an obscure corner of JFK Airport or in a deserted industrial parking lot. If this is what New York City has in mind, NASA should consider awarding Enterprise to another city that will do a better job of displaying this national treasure."
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in April selected the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia, Florida's Kennedy Space Center and the California Science Center in Los Angeles to receive Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, respectively.
New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum landed the Enterprise, a test orbiter that never flew in space.
Texans were furious that Houston, with its vital role in NASA history, was passed over for, of all places, New York.
Poe said at the time that putting a shuttle in Manhattan was "like putting the Statue of Liberty in Omaha."
"One Giant Snub for Houston," read the headline in the Houston Chronicle.
Talks are under way to move the Explorer, a full-scale mock-up shuttle, from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida to Space Center Houston at Johnson Space Center. But Texans aren't giving up on trying to land the Enterprise.
A NASA spokesman said in a statement that the agency "does not foresee any issues that would prevent transferring the Enterprise to Intrepid as scheduled in 2012. NASA firmly stands by its decisions. The locations selected ensure that the greatest number of Americans will have a chance to see these national treasures and learn more about their significant contribution to our nation's space exploration history."
Bolden recently told the NASA inspector general's office that "if it had been strictly a personal decision, his preference would have been to place an orbiter in Houston," but he could not ignore that Space Center Houston had relatively low attendance rates and provided significantly lower international access than the locations selected.
(c)2011 the Los Angeles Times
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