Thursday, March 03, 2011

Bolden will make orbiter decision April 12

NASA chief Charles Bolden told a congressional committee today that he would announce the final resting places for the space agency's shuttle orbiters on April 12- the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight.

Discovery, now in orbit, is headed to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. The other two — Atlantis and Endeavour — will go to educational facilities — such as museums — that have yet to be named.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is one of 29 locations seeking an orbiter. It announced plans in December to build a $100 million exhibit as the centerpiece.

Bolden was testifying before the House Appropriations subcommittee that overseas NASA's budget.

Lawmakers from other states made sometimes humorous pitches. No Floridian sits on the subcommittee.

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., lobbied for the Museum of Flight in Seattle, which gets 450,000 annual visitors. Rep. Steve Austria, R-Ohio, offered Bolden a lapel pin saying, "Land the shuttle in Ohio," where it would reside at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Rep. Chakah Fattah of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the panel, suggested the winner should be a state with no other NASA facilities. The audience watching the hearing groaned in amusement.

Rep. Jo Bonner, an Alabama Republican whose district lost a $35 billion Air Force contract last week to Dicks' district, said the winning state should be chosen alphabetically, drawing laughs.

"We just want to make sure the decision is fair," Bonner said.

Bolden assured him it would be.

-Bart Jansen, Washington

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