Seattle Wanted a Shuttle. Oh Well.

Apparently, Seattle’s Museum of Flight was super excited about getting one of the three decommissioned space shuttles! Only problem is that last week NASA gave them all away to other institutions. Wah waaah.

Consolation prize? A wingless, plywood training shuttle. At least that $12 million space-shuttle building they built won’t go to waste!

The New York Times recently spoke with Douglas R. King, the museum’s chief executive:

Q. You had been planning for a shuttle for years. You had legislators pushing for it. You built a special climate-controlled building. What happened?

A. Well, there’s only four of them. We’ve actually been working on this for 10 years — longer, even. We wanted to make sure we had this very important artifact. The first letter went out to NASA after President Reagan announced the program, so you could say 25 years. Having a building had been one of the original criteria, but that didn’t seem as important to them in the end as population and access to global markets. I can’t argue that New York and Los Angeles aren’t bigger than us.

Q. What was your response when NASA announced its decision?

A. A shuttle would have been our first choice. I won’t pretend we’re not disappointed, but we’re moving forward.

Q. What are the plans for the Space Gallery?

A. We will have a full-size mockup of the space shuttle — a full fuselage shuttle trainer. It looks exactly like the shuttle except that it doesn’t have wings. One advantage is that because it is not a priceless artifact like the shuttle, we’ll be able to use it for educational purposes. Some people, but not everyone, will be able to go inside. They won’t be able to do that with the shuttles. The trainer is about the size of a 747. The tail is 56 feet high. From the outside it will look exactly like the shuttle except for the wings.

Q. You raised $9 million in public donations to build the Space Gallery. Were contributors upset once they heard the gallery wouldn’t actually house a shuttle?

A. Everyone was disappointed. We did our best. We did everything we could to get it. I don’t feel like this is a consolation prize. I was very impressed with the way the community accepted this so quickly.

Q. Is the museum going to need to change its marketing strategy? Will the admission price you must have had penciled in stay the same?

A. We never got tremendously ramped up for it. We always knew there was a lot of competition, that it was always an “if.” I know I’m sounding Pollyanna-ish, but we won’t just be attracting people to come to see the Space Shuttle, we’ll be representing the entirety of the space program now.

Methinks that Houston could learn a thing or two from the Emerald City (thats Seattle to you non-Pacific Northwesterners).


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