The space agency giveth, and the space agency taketh away. On Tuesday NASA announced the museums that would get its three surviving space shuttles — Discovery will go to the Smithsonian outside Washington, Endeavour to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, and Atlantis will stay at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. New York City gets a consolation prize: Enterprise, the shuttle prototype built in the 1970s for early tests, will move from the Smithsonian to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Conspicuous by its absence from the list was Houston — the home base for America's astronaut corps. Gina Sunseri of our staff forwarded this note from several relatives of astronauts who died when Challenger and Columbia were lost.
"We are heartbroken to learn of the decision that the Space Shuttle will not be allowed to return home to Houston. Home is where the heart is, and Houston has served as the heart of the space shuttle program since its inception nearly four decades ago. All the astronauts lost were Houston's residents. We again share a collective loss as a result of the political decision to send the space shuttle elsewhere. We had prayed that the incredible sacrifices this community has endured would have allowed the shuttle's legacy to continue here. Although we disagree with this decision, we will persevere in our support of space exploration, just as we have done in the past."
The statement was signed by Evelyn Husband Thompson, whose husband Rick commanded Columbia in 2003; Jonathan Clark, husband of Columbia astronaut Laurel Clark; Sandy Anderson, wife of Columbia's payload commander, Michael Anderson; Lorna Onizuka, whose husband, Ellison, died on Challenger in 1986; and Cheryl McNair, wife of Challenger astronaut Ronald McNair. (Picture: Artist's conception of space shuttle display in Florida.)