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Wanted: A Farewell Tour for the space shuttles

Space Shuttle Discovery rides piggyback

Space Shuttle Discovery hitches a ride back to its launch site

As I was doing the dishes last night, I listened to the TV in the other room. They were talking about how NASA’s last three shuttles are being prepared for their final piggyback flights to the cities where they will be permanently housed and about how excited the people in those cities are about the shuttles’ upcoming landings at their airports.

Discovery will be going to the Smithsonian in Washington. Atlantis is destined for Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Why not spread the excitement around the country? They are America’s shuttles, after all, and three lucky cities will become their permanent homes. But before that, since they will be airborne anyway, why not fly them around the country and let as many Americans as possible — and especially the children, our next generation of scientists — see them before they are permanently grounded? Most people have never seen a shuttle launch or a shuttle. And never will. Why not a Farewell Tour? Publish routes and schedules. Land at major airports or do fly-bys at smaller ones. Let Americans see their shuttles up close, in fresh air and sunshine, one last time. Do it while they can still be seen as the glorious birds they are instead of as the relics they are about to become.

11 Comments »

  1. There’s gold in them thar hills!
    Actually lucky enough to see two landings. Used to camp a lot near Joshua Tree (no it’s NOT just the name of a well known Irish Band’s album) and happened upon it twice.
    Like your idea 🙂

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  2. What a nice idea, PT! Unfortunately I suspect it isn’t practical. Mounting a space shuttle on top of the 747 SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) made for a configuration that strained the operational envelope and restricted its range to only 1,000 miles. This tells me that when carrying a shuttle it likely requires a runway length not found at a normal airport. Plus, mating and de-mating the shuttle is a big deal requiring a special team and special equipment. I include a link to the Wiki page for the SCA.

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    • My point is that once it’s mated, since that’s such a huge undertaking, leave it mated and fly it around the country — in hops of 1,000 miles or less. Don’t de-mate at each stop. Just park for a while and let people come look. Surely there are enough Air Force bases around, or other facilities with adequate runways, to visit a large part of the country, with low flights over areas where they can’t actually land.

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      • I would like to see it too, and especially to get inside it, but there aren’t any scaffolds built to handle that. However, if you can get ’em to come, I’ll be there with bells on!!

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      • So agree. It’s just sad to us who remember the “space race” and how NASA grew from ideas and rented office space to multiple locations/ command centers. It would be a good use of fuel to fly them and let tax payers get up close – might help the space program…oh, that’s probably it…shove it off quietly and get it out of sight. Loss of a dream

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        • You’re probably right. Just get rid of them quietly. Don’t make a big spectacle of ending the most inspriing program this country has ever seen. Don’t call undue attention to ending the program that fueled the imaginations of a generation. So sad.

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Now that I've had my say ...

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