HOUSTON – Houston, we have a problem.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday announced that Space Center Houston will not receive a retired space shuttle. The orbiters will instead be housed in Florida, California, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Specifically, the space shuttle Atlantis will retire to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Endeavour will be housed at the California Science Center, just outside of Los Angeles.
Discovery, as previously promised, will go to the Smithsonian Institute.
The prototype Enterprise, which is currently housed at the Smithsonian, will be moved to the Intrepid Museum in New York City.
Bolden made the announcement from the Kennedy Space Center, during a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight and the 50th anniversary of man’s first journey into space.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker issued a statement in the moments after the announcement was made, saying she was disappointed about the decision.
"This is certainly disappointing, but not entirely unexpected as the Administration has been hinting that Houston would not be a winner in this political competition. I am disappointed for Houston, the JSC family and the survivors of the Columbia and Challenger missions who paid the ultimate price for the advancement of space exploration. There was no other city with our history of human space flight or more deserving of a retiring orbiter. It is unfortunate that political calculations have prevailed in the final decision," Parker said.
She wasn’t the first city official to express concern that politics would play a role in the placement of the orbiters.
Monday night, Houston City Council Member Mike Sullivan said he wasn’t sure that Houston – considered by many to be an obvious choice to house a shuttle – would be selected.
"I think politics will get in the way," said Sullivan. "This is an election year coming up, and I hate to say it, but I’m afraid that the shuttles are going to go somewhere else."
After the announcement was made Tuesday, Bob Mitchell of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership was calling for a Congressional investigation into why Houston wasn’t chosen.
"Politics trumped common sense," Mitchell said.
In all, 21 museums and centers – including Space Center Houston and facilities in Dayton, Ohio, Seattle and Chicago—fought to land one of the shuttles.
"We want to thank all of the locations that expressed an interest in one of these national treasures," Bolden said. "This was a very difficult decision, but one that was made with the American public in mind. In the end, these choices provide the greatest number of people with the best opportunity to share in the history and accomplishments of NASA’s remarkable Space Shuttle Program. These facilities we’ve chosen have a noteworthy legacy of preserving space artifacts and providing outstanding access to U.S. and international visitors."
Many of the facilities that were not chosen to house the shuttles, including the Johnson Space Center, were promised shuttle program artifacts.
The JSC is set to receive flight deck pilot and commander seats, and Texas A&M Aerospace Engineering department will get a flight simulator.
Only two shuttle missions remain, both to the international space station.
Endeavour is due to blast off April 29, and Atlantis on June 28.