Two more flights remain for U.S. Space Shuttles, then it's lights out for the shuttle program which has flown over 130 missions and fascinated Americans for the last 30 years.

Yesterday, NASA announced new homes for the fleet.

  • Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter built, will move from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.
  • The Udvar-Hazy Center will become the new home for shuttle Discovery, which retired after completing its 39th mission in March.
  • Shuttle Endeavour, which is preparing for its final flight at the end of the month will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
  • Shuttle Atlantis, which will fly the last planned shuttle mission in June, will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida.

Surprisingly, Johnson Space Center in Houston (which is home to Mission Control) will only receive seats from a shuttle. Other institutions which receive shuttle artifacts are:

  • Various shuttle simulators for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum of McMinnville, Ore., and Texas A&M's Aerospace Engineering Department
  • Full fuselage trainer for the Museum of Flight in Seattle
  • Nose cap assembly and crew compartment trainer for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio
  • Orbital maneuvering system engines for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center of Huntsville, Ala., National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

Like many Americans, I've always been fascinated by the shuttle program. In the early 80's, some of my favorite toys were shuttle replica's of all sizes. Still to this day, if I see a shuttle toy in the store I'll purchase it for my kids.

In 2005, Discovery was set to take off on the first Shuttle mission since the Columbia accident so I scheduled an entire two week Florida trip around the original July 13th lift off date. Unfortunately, a sensor issue forced NASA to reschedule it's launch so I was unable to stay long enough to witness the launch in person. I did get to go to the Kennedy Space Center, however, and saw the Discovery on the launch pad. What an awesome sight! I would encourage anyone to include "visit a Space Center" on their "bucket list", because it is quite the experience.

Despite the Columbia and Challenger tragedies, Americans' should still feel great pride in what NASA and our shuttle program has accomplished.  America's space explorations represent the true American Spirit in my opinion. We are a nation that believes that we are only limited by our own imaginations, that we can reach for the stars and catch them and that prides itself in its resolve to achieve the impossible.

There are many Government agencies and departments that I would like to see done away with, but NASA is definitely not one of them. Since 1961 when President Kennedy challenged NASA to land an American on the moon and bring them safely back, they have risen to every challenge. Their challenge now is to put man on Mars by the 2030's. Despite the end of the shuttle era, America's dreams of reaching further and further into space are still alive and it's my hope that future Presidents will continue to challenge NASA to achieve the impossible; and that Americans never stop reaching for the stars.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.  - John F. Kennedy, Sept 12 1962