Leaders rally to bring retired shuttle to Houston


by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News


Posted on April 6, 2011 at 7:17 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 7 at 9:58 AM

HOUSTON -- With the announcement from NASA less than a week away, a delegation of Houston and Harris County leaders, along with representatives from Space Center Houston, made one last public pitch Wednesday to bring one of the retired space shuttles to Houston.

"No city in America is more deserving of a shuttle than our Houston, Texas,” Milo Hamilton, the voice of the Astros, bellowed as he emceed a pep rally of sorts on the steps of Houston City Hall.

"Neil Armstrong did not say ‘Dayton, the Eagle has landed,’” Hamilton said in reference to Dayton, Ohio, being among 20 cities and museums across the country vying to put one of the three surviving shuttles on display when they are retired from service.

The decision, due to be announced by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, is scheduled for Tuesday April 12. 

The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., is guaranteed one of the shuttles. The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is widely assumed to be the second recipient. Houston, home to the Houston Space Center, Mission Control, and where all astronauts train is where local leaders believe the third and final shuttle would logically be placed.

"You like to think that decisions made in Washington D.C., are always logical,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.  “They're not. And that's why we're here today."

Evelyn Husband Thompson, the widow of Columbia Commander Rick Husband, joined the Houston effort several weeks ago when she learned the Houston plan was not a done deal.

"When I got a call three weeks ago that it possibly wasn't coming here I was floored,” she said.

She was joined at the Houston City Hall rally by Sandy Anderson and Lorna Onizuka, who also lost their husbands in the Columbia and Challenger disasters.  For them, the heart of the shuttle program will always be in Houston.

"Everything seems to become political. This isn't political,” said Thompson. “This is a national treasure and this is where the national treasure belongs. This is where the shuttle belongs. This is its home."

Space Center Houston already draws 750,000 visitors a year. Add the space shuttle, and proponents see a $45-million boost to the local economy and 750 more jobs. The shuttle would be housed in a new 53,000-square-foot facility at Space Center Houston, complete with interactive and educational exhibits designed to encourage student interest in science, technology, engineering and math.