NASA's decision on where to publicly display retired shuttle orbiters was not tainted by political influence and followed the law, according to a report released today by the agency's internal watchdog office.
But the evaluation of institutions included a scoring error that would have tied one that missed out on an orbiter -- the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio -- with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which was awarded Atlantis, the report by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin found.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said he would have picked the same sites even if he were aware of the error.
The awards were announced April 12 in a ceremony at KSC. In addition to Kennedy keeping Atlantis, Discovery was committed to the Smithsonian Institution's Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington, D.C., and Endeavour to the California Science Center in L.A.
Enterprise, a prototype used for landing tests that is currently displayed at the Smithsonian, will be transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York.
The announcements were delayed at times due to concerns they could distract the shuttle workforce or interfere with negotiations over the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.
Texas officials were highly critical that Johnson Space Center in Houston, home to NASA astronauts and shuttle program management, was not given an orbiter and questioned the selection process.
The report shows Space Center Houston, JSC's visitor center, was not among the top nine of 13 finalists NASA scored. The Smithsonian, which has first dibs on space artifacts, wasn't scored.
Read the full 27-page report HERE.
IMAGE: On July 21, space shuttle Atlantis was slowly towed from the Shuttle Landing Facility to an orbiter processing facility at Kennedy Space Center for the last time. Credit: NASA/Frankie Martin