Thursday, February 17, 2011

Boeing gives $5 million to Ohio museum hoping for NASA shuttle

WASHINGTON — The Boeing Co. is donating $5 million to an Air Force museum in Ohio that a senator hopes will help it acquire one of NASA’s retired shuttle orbiters.

Boeing's contribution, with three installments, had been planned before the release of President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget. But that spending blueprint proposes $14 million to prepare the museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton to house the Atlantis shuttle.

The foundation for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has now raised $20 million to build a 200,000-square-foot building to house presidential aircraft, a space gallery and an array of cargo and tanker planes, foundation officials said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Thursday that the Boeing contribution would help land one of three shuttle orbiters in Ohio.

“Boeing’s generous donation marks more good news for bringing the shuttle to the Miami Valley,” Brown said. “I will continue to work with the Ohio Congressional Delegation on a bipartisan basis to bring the Shuttle to its most suitable home: the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson.”

NASA hasn’t decided where to locate the orbiters after the shuttle program’s three final flights this year. But dozens of locations, including Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Johnson Space Center in Texas, are competing with the Air Force Museum to house orbiters in an educational setting.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will decide where to place the Atlantis and Endeavour orbiters, with an announcement expected in April. The Discovery is headed to the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, said he is still pushing for KSC to receive an orbiter.

"Don’t worry about all this Ohio stuff," Nelson said. "Remember, the last shuttle flight is much later this year. Then they’ve got to go through all the stuff to prepare the orbiters for the museum. We’ve got plenty of time."

The Air Force Museum’s foundation plans to begin construction in 2013 and open its fourth building in 2014, regardless of whether it receives a shuttle.

“We are extremely grateful for this major gift from the Boeing Company,” said Richard Reynolds, a retired lieutenant general and president of the foundation. “This extraordinary act of generosity is a huge step in the effort to fund construction of the new building, and will ultimately enable the museum to do an even more phenomenal job of educating visitors about the United States Air Force."

By Bart Jansen, Gannett Washington Bureau,

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