Space Center Houston unveils official name of Space Shuttle replica as 'Independence'


The name announced Saturday during a public christening ceremony is the winner from 10,263 entries received by officials at Space Center Houston in a summer-long "Name the Shuttle" contest.

The replica will sit atop a 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as part of a $12 million, six-story attraction under construction.

The replica was a consolation prize for Houston, which has deep ties to the nation's space program as home of Mission Control but lost out in obtaining one of NASA's four retired space shuttles.

Twenty-nine-year-old Tim Judd, of Kingwood, submitted the winning name entry. He says independence is important to Texas and all Americans.

"It's kind of an incredible feeling," Judd said. "I'm a little in shock, but excited."

He'll get his name on the exhibit and a free multi-day trip for four to Space Center Houston, which includes a VIP tour of the facility, a behind-the-scenes experience at NASA-JSC, hotel accommodations, meals and travel compensation.

The state-of-the-art Space Shuttle attraction is slated to open in 2015 and will be unique to Space Center Houston. It will be the only place in the world where guests can climb aboard the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and the Shuttle replica to experience the 30-year Space Shuttle program in a dynamic, hands-on environment.

"It'll be one of the best classrooms around here to get young people and young minds excited about science and math and engineering," said Richard Allen, president and CEO of Space Center Houston.

Judd, who helped christen the shuttle Saturday, hopes the new exhibit will an inspiration to the young minds that come to see it.

"There was a time when a guy wanted to cross the ocean, and they said you couldn't do it; you'd fall off the side," Judd said. "And I think space flight, deep space exploration, is kind of like our generation's ocean."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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