Seattle's Museum of Flight says no shuttle is sad, but they're getting the next-best thing

Apr 12, 2011

It's a day of disappointment in the northwest for fans of US space exploration. 

Seattle's Museum of Flight got official word this morning that it will not be home to one of the three space shuttles NASA is retiring.  And it won't get the prototype Enterprise (which was only used for test flights and never reached space) either.

The shuttles are going to:

  • The Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Atlantis)
  • The Smithsonian Institution in northern Virginia (Discovery)
  • The California Science Center in Los Angeles (Endeavor)
  • The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City (Enterprise, which is being moved from Washington, DC)

In Seattle, science-loving dads brought their daughters, astronomy enthusiasts turned out in full force, folks wearing mocked-up flight jackets all crowded in to the Museum of Flight to hear the announcement from NASA…and reaction from the museum's CEO, Doug King.

"Obviously, that's not the news we were hoping for," King told the gathering.

Seattle's consolation prize is something called the full-fuselage shuttle trainer, which is about the same size as the actual spacecraft.  Even though it’s made of plywood and doesn't have wings, Museum of Flight CEO King says it has a couple of advantages.

"You can climb inside the full fuselage trainer.  You'll be able to walk in that incredible payload bay and see the crew quarters and climb up into the cockpit and look out the window and have the view from space that the astronauts have," he says.

He says they'll make it the centerpiece of the Space Gallery they've been building, with aims of inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers.  And it will cost less.  Only about $50,000 to fly it here, the museum estimates.  …Not bad for an artifact they say has been used by every space shuttle astronaut who ever trained for the missions aboard the real thing.