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Where do you park a 180-ft space shuttle? Ohio, of course.

April 7, 2011

NASA is about to decide where its retired space shuttles will be permanently placed. One of the orbiters has already been promised to the Smithsonian, but where the others will live out their golden years is TBD. Here in Ohio, politicians, businesses, educators, space enthusiasts, history buffs – even kids – are lobbying to send one of the 80-ton national treasures on a one-way trip (via the back of a 747) to the National Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. Wright-Patt is a viable contender since the Air Force has played an integral role in the space shuttle program since the beginning; its engineers heavily involved in shuttle design, development, and flight missions.

When I first saw this story, I was enthused that my home state might become home to such a monumental piece of aeronautical engineering history. But the practical, energy-conscious side of me thought: “Why should we move the shuttles anywhere? Do you know what that will cost? Let’s figure out a way to recycle them and repurpose the materials…EWI has brilliant engineers. We know aerospace/defense manufacturing technologies. And EWI Energy Center is working on a materials substitution matrix….” My mind spun with the possibilities. But alas, NASA’s decision regarding where to place the shuttles will be made on April 12, leaving little time to fine-tune a plan to save the world by not saving the space shuttles.

There is a happy/surprising ending to this story, however. The locations that are chosen by NASA will get something (in my mind) even greater than a massively cool momento of twentieth-century technology: they will get jobs. One article I read online said that cities that receive the shuttles can expect roughly 700 new jobs to result from it. Alleluia! Jobs are something that Ohio needs. I gladly clicked on a link to sign a petition to bring one of the shuttles to Wright-Patt in Dayton. After all, if government money is going to be spent to transport the shuttles anyway, and only a few cities will benefit from it, I’d like to see Dayton counted among them. You can sign the petition yourself at http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/space-shuttle-petition-1123649.html – but do so by April 12, 2011.