NASA Shares Space Shuttle Artifacts With Museums
September 5, 2012

NASA Shares Space Shuttle Artifacts With Museums

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

As NASA´s post mortem on the space shuttle program continues, many groups and organizations stand to benefit from the bounty of artifacts that the agency is making available to the public.

Starting this week, NASA is expanding the program for museums across the country to receive shuttle-related items like specially packaged food and heat shield tiles. Previously, the program had made these items only available to educational institutions.

Requests for these artifacts are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Museums must obtain a user ID and password from their state agency for surplus property,” said a NASA statement released on Tuesday.

The program will make available the more than 20,000 tiles that were installed on each shuttle to protect it from the atmospheric reentry heating that can reach thousands of degrees. The shuttle´s aluminum hull is only able to withstand a few hundred degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition to making the tiles available, astronaut food favorites like shrimp cocktail and spaghetti are also up for grabs. Previous food packages made available by NASA included an entrée, a dessert and a drink and were designated “not for consumption.”

Despite the fact that these items will largely serve an educational purpose, the cash-strapped agency will not be shipping them out for free. Ordering pieces of the shuttle´s heat shield, which are available in three different styles, will set a museum back $23.40 per tile. The space food package, which includes three different items, comes with a $28.03 shipping and handling fee.

NASA will also be expanding the program that makes other artifacts available that represent significant aeronautics accomplishments from its space exploration programs. These artifacts include engine nozzles used on X-34 aircraft, models from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., early shuttle prototype mock-ups, and other items. To date, the space agency program has offered over 29,000 pieces.

NASA has also determined where the retired shuttles will be displayed: Discovery will be displayed at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia; Atlantis will be exhibited at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida; Endeavour will be shown at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Plans also include the transfer of Enterprise from the Udvar-Hazy Center to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

The transfer of Endeavor made headlines recently because the shuttle´s 12-mile journey through the streets of Los Angeles will require the downing of some 400 trees along the planned parade route. Some residents are concerned that chopping down so many old trees will leave the streets bare and depreciate their property values.

Others have concerns that the shuttle parade will only add to the vehicle congestion that already strangles the California city.

City officials and the science center are trying to make the point that the historical significance of housing the shuttle will offset any losses that result from culling the trees.

"It is a historical artifact and national treasure," said California Science Center president Jeffrey Rudolph. "The community understands that and recognizes that it will help inspire the next generation of explorers."