King County Council requests Space Shuttle for Museum of Flight

Twenty-one facilities competing for three retiring shuttles

The King County Council today unanimously passed a motion requesting that one of three retiring space shuttles be permanently housed at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

“Our region has a rich history of aviation going back to the vision of Bill Boeing,” said Pete von Reichbauer, prime sponsor of the motion. “The Museum of Flight is a fitting retirement place for one of this nation’s pioneering space shuttles.”

“Bringing the space shuttle to our region as a permanent exhibit will be a compelling chapter in our nearly century old commitment to aerospace,” said Larry Phillips, cosponsor of the legislation. “The Museum of Flight has demonstrated it has the vision, programs, and facilities necessary to showcase this part of our nation’s scientific history.”

The motion calls on President Barack Obama, NASA, and Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum to award the Museum of Flight one of the three space shuttles scheduled for retirement in late 2010 or early 2011.

Twenty-one facilities across the country responded to a NASA request for information for potential host sites. The Museum of Flight is believed to be among the last six finalists. Hosts must provide a suitable climate-controlled indoor facility, be ready to take delivery between July and December 2011, and may be required to pay some of the costs to prepare and transport the shuttle.

The Museum of Flight is building a new gallery for the shuttle across the street from the current museum. The museum has raised $8 million of the $12 million necessary to build the facility. Architectural design work on the building is nearly complete, a groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for June 29, and construction will begin this fall in order to be ready for shuttle delivery by July 2011.

The Museum of Flight has received letters of endorsement from Gov. Chris Gregoire, all the members of the Washington congressional delegation, and several educational institutions to help it get a shuttle.

Four-hundred thousand people visit the Museum of Flight annually, including 120,000 students and teachers participating in educational programs. Adding the space shuttle as an exhibit is expected to increase attendance and create a variety of new educational opportunities.