Image: Enterprise
collectSPACE
Enterprise has been on display in the Udvar-Hazy Center at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum since 2003. Its exhibit will be replaced by Discovery.
By Editor, CollectSpace.com
updated 4/12/2011 8:17:29 PM ET 2011-04-13T00:17:29

NASA unveiled the final flight plans for its three retiring space shuttles on Tuesday, assigning two to museums in Washington, D.C., and California, and keeping the third at its launch and landing site in Florida. A fourth, prototype orbiter will go to a new home in New York.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the long-awaited news during an employee event held at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the space shuttle program. STS-1, the maiden flight for the winged reusable spaceship fleet, lifted off on April 12, 1981.

  1. Space news from NBCNews.com
    1. KARE
      Teen's space mission fueled by social media

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-year-old from Minnesota to Kazakhstan this month for the liftoff of the International Space Station's next crew.

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

"Each shuttle has stories to be told, history to be shared," Bolden said. "We intend to tell their stories and share that history with as many people as we can over the coming years and decades.

"People from across our nation and around the world will continue to learn from these amazing vehicles and the stories of their crews and their missions. The shuttles will inspire many people who are now just in school to become the next generation of exploration leaders, and millions more who are just proud and passionate about our space program will also now have a chance to see a space shuttle in person," Bolden said.

Bolden's announcement means that NASA's space shuttles will eventually go on display on both coasts of the U.S., with three along the East Coast. [The Most Memorable Shuttle Missions]

The why behind the where
Discovery, NASA's oldest remaining orbiter and the world's most flown spacecraft, will be displayed by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum at its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport.

The shuttle Endeavour, which will launch on its own final mission later this month, will be given to the California Science Center, a department of the state of California, in Los Angeles.

"The California Science Center in Los Angeles [is] only a few miles from the site of the old Rockwell plant where the shuttle was developed and from where its construction was managed," Bolden said.

Shuttle Atlantis will remain in Florida, to be exhibited at the spaceport's official visitor complex after its return from the 135th and last mission of NASA's shuttle program, currently due for launch in late June.

"The Kennedy Space Center, where every shuttle mission and so many other historic space flights have originated, will showcase my old friend Atlantis," stated Bolden, who as an astronaut flew one of his four missions on Atlantis.

Artist's rendering of shuttle at Intrepid
Intrepid
New York's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum plans to surround the space shuttle Enterprise with platforms and exhibits.

"Not only will the workers who sent it into space so many times have a chance to still see it, the millions of visitors who come here every year to learn more about space and be a part of the excitement of exploration will be able to see what is still a great rarity, an actual flown space vehicle."

Bolden also announced that the atmospheric test orbiter Enterprise, which has belonged to the Smithsonian since 1982 and has been on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center since 2003, will be transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a converted aircraft carrier docked to a pier in New York City, to make way for Discovery to enter the national collection.

Showcasing the shuttles
At present, NASA plans to have the shuttles ready to ship to their museums by the middle of next year.

The orbiters going to sites outside Florida will be attached to the back of NASA's modified Boeing 747 airliner and ferried to their new homes. Cranes will offload the shuttles from the carrier aircraft at the recipient cities' airports and then, depending on the location, the orbiters will be moved to their display buildings. [How to display a retired space shuttle]

At the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy, just outside Washington, Discovery will be rolled into the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar, where it will serve as the centerpiece for an exhibit hall already filled with other historic space artifacts.

Image: Concept for Florida exhibit
AP
This concept design shows the space shuttle Atlantis on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

As Discovery moves in, Enterprise will be shipped up the coast to the Intrepid in New York. Too large to fit on the deck of the aircraft carrier and still have room for the other aircraft already on display, Enterprise will be housed in a planned glass-enclosed hangar that will sit alongside the Intrepid on Pier 86, where the museum's Concorde jet sits now. According to the design drawings, Enterprise will be displayed with its payload bay open, surrounded by interactive educational exhibits.

Endeavour will be sent west, joining the space exhibits at the California Science Center, where Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft are already on display. Unlike the other museums selected, the science center did not pre-release its exhibit design concepts for the orbiter.

At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, Atlantis will be suspended such that it appears to be back in orbit around Earth. As proposed, a multistory digital projection of the home planet will rotate behind the orbiter in a new $100 million, 64,000 square-foot indoor facility.

Kennedy's display is designed to complement its existing Shuttle Launch Experience, which opened in 2007 to give visitors the chance to feel what it was like to ride to space aboard one of the orbiters.

"I want to congratulate all of these fine institutions and wish them many visitors and exciting programs with the space shuttle fleet. For all of them, take good care of our vehicles. They've served the nation well, and we at NASA have a deep and abiding relationship and love affair with them that is hard to put into words," Bolden said.

More suitors than shuttles
Bolden's announcement Tuesday came three years after NASA first said it would give its retired space shuttles to U.S. museums or educational institutions. Solicitations in 2008 and then again last year identified 21 organizations vying for an orbiter.

Museums needed to provide an environmentally controlled indoor exhibit space and be able to afford the estimated $28.8 million needed to prepare the orbiter and transport it for display (Congress waived the fee for the Smithsonian).

"There were many, many worthy institutions that requested an orbiter, and only four to go around," Bolden said.

Continue reading at CollectSpace.com to learn more about NASA’s space shuttle display selection process.

Robert Pearlman is editor of CollectSpace.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @robertpearlman and CollectSpace at @CollectSpace.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Video: NASA announces where shuttles will land

Timeline: Space shuttle timeline

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

loading photos...
  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments