GHP campaigns to bring retired shuttle to Houston

March 17, 2011 5:16:13 PM PDT
The time is running out for NASA's space shuttle program, and now several organizations are trying to get at least one of the shuttles after they're retired. Johnson Space Center is working to have one based here in Houston.

It's a campaign effort that actually began a couple of years ago but really went into overdrive as an announcement of where the three shuttles will go is expected next month. And Space Center Houston says they have a pretty good argument as to why one deserves to be there.

As the shuttle fleet begins touching the tarmac for last time and missions wrap up, a new race is already underway for museums across the country, vying for a newly retired shuttle to put on display.

"Houston deserves it. It's space city," one area resident said.

Space Center Houston's campaign to receive one of three retiring shuttle began two years ago, but is really heating up.

A letter writing campaign to President Obama and head of NASA, Charles Bolden, has generated 50,000-plus letters of support pouring in from all 50 states. A Texas delegation of legislators is also lobbying for a shuttle.

Space Center Houston says we have the resume, dating back to the origin of the program in the 1970s.

"The shuttle was developed and designed here. All the astronauts that have flown on the missions were trained here at Johnson Space Center and the home of mission control is right here at Johnson Space Center, that's controlled every mission," said Richard Allen, president and CEO of Space Center Houston.

A green area on site would house a newly constructed exhibit, spanning 53,000 square feet, including a massive glass window.

The exhibit would also help the nonprofit expand its education programs.

"What we've decided to do from a theme standpoint is to talk about the human side of what the astronauts were able to accomplish while they were flying the shuttle," Allen said.

And space exploration buffs hope someday to have another family photo op in front of a newly retired shuttle.

"This is like the brain of the space shuttle program for America and this is mission control here. Let's bring it home!" supporter Willie Johnson said.

And their letter writing campaign is really gaining momentum. Just last week another 1,500-2,000 letters were sent to the NASA chief.

Space Center Houston is also touting a huge economic benefit from being awarded one of the shuttles. They say the added tourism will bring as much as $45 million to the area and as many as 750 new jobs.

An announcement is expected on April 12, the 30th anniversary of the shuttle's first flight.


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