Space Shuttle for Sale

Ultimate bargain for Space Collectors

Want the ultimate space collectible? Maybe consider a space shuttle? The orbiters have flown 29 years and tens of millions of kilometres, but soon all three remaining shuttles will be up for grabs. Some time this year—right now it looks like September 30th 2010 —NASA plans to shut down the program - and will sell the remaining orbiters.

It's not going to help financially strapped homeowners, but the U.S. government sweetened the pot for museums and institutions hoping to snare a space shuttle for their collections. The new asking price, which basically covers travel costs, is a recession-friendly $28.8 million, a markdown of more one-third off the original $42 million fee. NASA says it reduced its asking price because some of the work to decommission the shuttles, such as removing hazardous materials, would have to be done even if the shuttles ended up sitting in a hangar at the Kennedy Space Center. "Since NASA was going to have to do that work anyway, it decided to not pass on those charges to any prospective recipients of the orbiters," says NASA spokesman Michael Curie.

Technically, the shuttles aren't "for sale." They remain the property of NASA and its official repository for artifacts, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. But the Air & Space Museum is only taking one ship, the Discovery, which leaves Atlantis and Endeavour up for grabs. Assuming, of course, all three make it safely through their last year of flying.

Most important, acquiring a shuttle orbiter is expensive. The first $6 million of the fee will reimburse NASA for the Boeing 747 that will piggy back an orbiter to the airport of choice—as long as it’s one with a runway at least 8,000 feet long. Orbiters are122 feet long, weigh 151,000 pounds, and have 78-foot wingspans. Underbellies are padded with ceramic thermal tiles, which must remain intact. The spacecraft cannot be disassembled for transport.

So far, 21 organizations have sent in proposals to adopt a shuttle.