Now Landing: NASA’s Retired Space Shuttles Heading to Museums

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Herman Beals / REUTERS

The Space Shuttle Enterprise, a prototype for other shuttles, is displayed in the space wing at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

On the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch, NASA announced the final resting place of four retired spacecrafts today. While the Enterprise was considered somewhat of a consolation prize since it never made an orbit in space, the Discovery, Endeavor and Atlantis shuttles have also found homes today in museums across the country.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden made the much-anticipated announcement this afternoon. Manhattan’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum has been chosen to display the test-model Enterprise shuttle, beating out more than 20 other institutions. The shuttle Discovery, which just completed its last mission in March, will take up residence at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a wing of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Virginia, where the Enterprise is currently on display. The Endeavor, which is preparing for its final flight at the end of April, will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. And the shuttle Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida after its last mission in June.

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Museums and institutions across the country have been vying for the spacecrafts since NASA announced the end of the shuttle mission, and the competition was fierce. With 21 official proposals submitted to NASA, candidates were keen on seeking ways to stand out. In Houston, the Johnson Space Center hired a marketing firm to create a campaign called “Bring the Shuttle Home.” The Intrepid Museum in NYC collected more than 150,000 names on a petition asking for one of the crafts, and the Museum of Flight in Seattle went as far as to start construction on a new $12 million wing that was supposed to house one of the shuttles.

As somewhat of a consolation prize, NASA also announced that hundreds of shuttle artifacts are being allocated to the runners-up, such as a full fuselage trainer to the Museum of Flight and deck pilot and commander seats for the Johnson Space Center, among others.

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However, like most things, these prominent pieces of history come at no small price. Preparation and destination charges alone add up to approximately $28.8 million, not to mention the cost of building a place to properly display the large prizes, each of which average 170,000 pounds and 122 feet long. But no worries, NASA is said to accept payment plans. (via NASA)