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HOUSTON Unsuccessful in landing one of the retired space shuttles, Houston is getting the next best thing: a replica.

The 122-foot long replica, dubbed Explorer, is set to arrive in suburban Houston on Friday after an eight-day trip across the Gulf of Mexico aboard a barge from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Houston officials had alleged NASA s decision last year to not award the city one of the agency s four retired shuttles was politically motivated. Many Houstonians were offended by the decision as the city is home to Johnson Space Center and Mission Control.

But NASA s watchdog group said the agency acted properly.

Explorer s new home will be Space Center Houston, Johnson Space Center s official visitor center.
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