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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.

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