Who Gets the Space Shuttle Discovery When It Lands?

There's a custody war brewing between interested parties over NASA's space shuttle Discovery when it finally returns to Earth tomorrow for the final time. Houston's Johnson Space Center, New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Seattle's History of Flight Museum, Florida's Kennedy Space Center, L.A.'s California Science Center, Dayton's Museum of the United States Air Force and D.C.'s National Air and Space Museum are among 21 institutions vying to care for the shuttle once it's retired. The cost? $28.8 million.

According to the NY Times, NASA put out feelers awhile back to see who might be interested in acquiring one of the three shuttles (the Endeavor and Atlantis are also available), with the following stipulations:

Potential bidders were told that educational programs had to accompany the exhibits, and that the shuttles had to reside in an indoor, climate-controlled environment. (NASA does not want to repeat the mistake at the end of the Apollo era, when the remaining Saturn V rockets rusted and decayed outdoors.)

But before that happens, the Discovery shuttle has to go through a year of cleaning and preparation, to which a large chunk of that $28.8 million is dedicated to.

So far the competition is stiff. The Johnson Space Center launched a marketing campaign. The Museum of Flight spent $12 million building a wing in anticipation of getting a shuttle. And the Kennedy Space center is working on a $100 million, 64,000 square foot expansion, hoping that a space shuttle will serve as the main attraction. Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr., the man responsible for doling these things out, has a hell of a decision to make. I don't wanna be that guy. [NY TImes]