The gentleman from Pearland yields…

…for some great insight on yesterday’s topic.  First, Wayne Hale, a former NASA flight director and, among other things, a one-time manager of America’s Space Shuttle Program (the big boss!), who has retired from government service, is also a wonderful writer.  And he has a great post today on why Houston didn’t get a space shuttle—because Houston takes having the space program here for granted, and assumed it was in the bag.

…with the level of interest that our citizens and leaders have in JSC, I soon expect to see that facility in the hands of a different federal agency.  Soon the National Park Service will be leading tours through the historic – and empty – halls of the Johnson Space Center National Historic Site.

I have a suspicion Wayne is trying to stir the troops to action; good for Wayne.

Those same troops got a different message today from Kyle Herring, a NASA public affairs officer for more than 20 years.  He sent along a reminder that not having a shuttle come to live in Houston shouldn’t be the end of our love affair with the program.

These space shuttles will have ended their flying careers, but not their inspirational ones. That career will live on forever in places where so many people will see what we have lived for much of our adult lives and our careers. We now can allow those who aren’t really sure what we did to see what miracles of spaceflight the space shuttle orbiters really are.

(snip)

As we travel around the country in a year, two years, five, 10, 20, our paths will take us to these museums.Discovery on SLF We’ll pass through the doors of a hangar, or round the corner of a cavernous hall and suddenly look up and see Enterprise, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour representing our work, our commitment, our dedication. Our forearms will sprout bumps knowing that these spaceships are there because we protected them through years of flight in an environment not friendly to Earth-built machines.

(snip)

…when we are standing in one of the four locations each orbiter finds home, we can watch the visitors stand in awe of these remarkable spacecraft and tell them about the Space Shuttle Program. We can tell them about what it meant to support such a great vehicle. We can spread the meaning of space – and the space shuttle in particular – to them.

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Houston, you are “go” to stop whining

Yes, it was disappointing that NASA decided not to retire a space shuttle to Houston.  But a “snub?”  That’s the default formulation here at home, the assumption that the intention behind yesterday’s announcement was “to treat [us] with contempt or neglect so as to humiliate or repress.”  Is no one ready to consider that, perhaps, the other places made better offers?  Even Houston’s Leading Information Source surprised with an un-hometown-ish editorial today: Houston, don’t take it for granted that we’re Space City; we have to work harder and smarter.

What, you say politics played a role in this decision, and a Congressional investigation is called for?  Why, I am shocked—shocked—to think that politics is involved in any way in the operations of an agency of the federal government.

NASA’s denial that politics influenced the decision is…probably a bit disingenuous.  I can believe that the bureaucrat who oversaw the collection and review of the applications did not have a political axe to grind when she made her recommendations; I can also believe that political considerations were taken into account farther up the food chain.  If you saw NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden making the announcement at the Kennedy Space Center yesterday, it was clear he was not happy about the words that were coming out of his mouth.

And sure, I can understand how, in the category of “close historical ties” to NASA, the New York City museum on board the USS Intrepid—which recovered the crews from one (1) Mercury mission and one (1) Gemini mission—clearly wins out over the facility at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, which has trained every American astronaut who ever flew and has controlled every American manned spaceflight since Gemini 4.  No contest.

Sorry, guys, but anything beyond “oh golly isn’t that disappointing” is just being a sore loser.

And Sheila Jackson Lee believed Neil Armstrong planted the American flag on Mars

You probably know that the United States is mothballing its fleet of space shuttles, and taking proposals from museums and such that want to adopt the three remaining orbiters.  The decision on where Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour will go is expected April 12th, the 30th anniversary of Columbia’s flight on STS-1.

sts-133 landingWell, it seems that some faint whisper of  this news has lately wafted in to the op/ed office at Houston’s Leading Information Source, which this morning boldly editorialized in favor of one of those ships ending up in Houston, the home of NASA’s Mission Control for human spaceflight, because, well, we’re Houston, dammit, and NASA should “do the right thing.”

The editorials in our little local publication have earned such a bad reputation over the years that I rarely bother to read them, and certainly not when they lead from the rear on pressing local issues.  So hats off to the good folks at blogHOUSTON.net for catching the comment today from the guy who schooled the Chron on the major unforced fact errors in what they must surely have thought was a simple rah-rah for the home team.

“The Discovery, the orbiter that flew first and furthest”
Discovery is the oldest surviving space-capable orbiter, but it was not the first to fly. Enterprise was the first to fly in the atmosphere; Columbia was the first to fly in space.

When they get the easy stuff so wrong…