OV-101 Enterprise is going to be landing at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. This is a fascinating story which signifies the end of the Space Shuttle era. This is a mix of both science and history which I love to see together. Plus, this is a story which began and ended for me to witness and experience in my lifetime and I find that it is a part my personal history in a way. I have always loved the shuttles and I am sorry to see them retired. The Enterprise was the prototype to the Space Shuttles which performed the very first atmospheric and landing tests of the design. It was never designed for actual space travel but paved the way for the Columbia and her sister space vessels.
All of the surviving decommissioned Space Shuttles were designated to their new post NASA homes. The Atlantis will remain in Florida. The Endeavor is going to California. The Discovery is going to the Smithsonian in Virginia and the Enterprise which was at the Smithsonian is going to New York. This disperses the shuttles across the country.
However, like all political decisions, NASA despite its scientific veneer is still a political entity, this decision does not come without controversy. The Space Center Houston adjacent to the omnipresent Mission Control in Houston feels left out of the mix. More on this story here.
I can't say for certain that the 2012 elections have anything to do with this. I don't think that anyone visiting the Smithsonian in Virginia is going to vote for Obama in the next election because the shuttle is there. However, a snub of Texas is not beyond them. So the usual Congressional investigation is promised as a result of this decision.
I personally think that this limited division of shuttles was not going to make everyone happy. There were 21 institutions in the mix wanting a shuttle. Personally, I think that the only fair way to do this is to make the shuttles traveling exhibits, but move them every five years or so to prevent too frequent a move. We wouldn't want to damage them in transit.
The good news in all this though is the fact that we have moved on. Yes, the shuttle age is over. I remember watching the very first shuttle launches on TV back in the late 70's and early 80's. I was transfixed by their sheer awesomeness. I was watching actual 'science fiction'. The Space Shuttle era is over now, but that is only to make way for the next generation of space flight technology. Despite our current economic troubles we will not be grounded forever. The Space Program has been one of the best government expenditures of money boosting both science and the human spirit. I look forward to watching what the next generation of space travel will bring us.
The very first Space Shuttle launch. April 12, 1981.