Pssst. Hey, Buddy, Wanna Buy a Space Shuttle?

Energy & Sustainability Science
Pssst.  Hey, Buddy, Wanna Buy a Space Shuttle?

Or maybe the right metaphor is a used car salesman on late-night TV: “Come on down to Crazy Bolden’s! [Flings money in air] We’re givin’ em away!”

Because, in point of fact, they are. Not counting tax, title, and license, of course, which in the Space Shuttle’s case amount to some $28 million. When Discovery returns from its final mission today, some 21 museums will be waiting in the wings to see which will become the lucky custodian of Orbital Vehicle 103, artifact. Atlantis and Endeavour (OVs 4 and 5, respectively) are also up for grabs. Contending institutions include the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in Manhattan, Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, and the Smithsonian. More details and used-car metaphors at The New York Times.


12 thoughts on “Pssst. Hey, Buddy, Wanna Buy a Space Shuttle?

  1. Dude M says:

    You would think with the last flight they could have blown the doors and deployed the slide chute to exit, eh?

  2. Alan says:

    Artificial reef! Artificial reef! Artificial reef!

    Sorry, but I have to repeat this cheer every time this subject comes up. Certainly at least one or two of them should go to museums, but at least one really, really needs to be cleaned and sunk in a location suitable for diving. The Florida Keys would be a good contender. Or Puerto Rico.

    Short of becoming gazillionaires, the vast majority of us will never have the opportunity to fly in space, let alone enjoy some EVA time. With a shuttle as a reef, though, any certified scuba diver could replicate space-walking. It would also be surpassingly cool to watch as corals and sponges encrust the hull of a genuine spaceship, and fish take up residence in the cockpit.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Not realistic, or in this case, desirable.

      A Space Shuttle, for all it’s engineering, is essentially a toxic waste dump. It would be easier to build a duplicate frame work from aluminum and sink that, than try to “clean” one.

      1. Alan says:

        [citation needed].

        I find it very hard to believe that a Space Shuttle could possibly be dirtier or harder to clean than a surplus US Navy ship from the WWII era, and people manage to sanitize and sink those as artificial reefs fairly regularly.

        1. Anonymous says:

          Believe it, a surplus USN ship, while quite dirty, isn’t in the same class. The shuttle is the most complicated vehicle ever constructed (one of it’s problems really), and used a very wide variety of materials that were chosen for performance rather than bio-compatibility. Some of those materials are far too expensive to use on a naval vessel, where weight isn’t nearly such a factor. And some of the materials are integral to the shuttle’s structure, not just drainable fluids but solid elements.

          1. Alan says:

            Maybe you should talk to someone who’s pulled asbestos out of a missile cruiser. There’s a whole lot more to ship decontamination than just draining the oil. However, substances that have little or no chance of diffusing into the water don’t have to be removed, so in the shuttle’s case many of the structural materials could stay. In the tropical waters where this attraction would make sense, encrusting corals would eventually cover the whole thing and seal it. Sometime in the distant future, if sentient beings happen to be around, they might even find this preserved artifact in a limestone cliff. That should give ’em something to ponder.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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