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Community officials, from mayors to members of Congress, are making their final pitches to score a shuttle, just over two years after the initial call went out. Plans for exhibition halls are getting grander. Online polls are popping up, as well as online petitions. Astronauts are putting in their two cents’ worth.

In Houston, home to NASA’s astronaut corps and Mission Control, four widows and one widower of the fallen Challenger and Columbia astronauts are speaking out. They’d like shuttles to go to the Space Center Houston tourist stop next door to Johnson Space Center, Kennedy and the Smithsonian.

For the other bidders, “we suggest that NASA share with them some of the invaluable pieces of the shuttle legacy,” the astronauts’ spouses wrote in a letter to Bolden.

A main engine or other artifact wouldn’t equal a shuttle, but the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium in Oklahoma still would embrace it. Curator Kim Jones’ dream would be to land Enterprise, which made an appearance in Tulsa in 1979.

“We’re very hopeful. But yes, we’re up against some big guns,” Jones acknowledged Wednesday.

Some of the hot contenders: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio; Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City; Museum of Flight in Seattle; and Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

Officials at each institution are giddy over the extra ticket sales a space shuttle would generate.

“There are so many good choices across the country, so I don’t really want any part and I’m not going to make a recommendation,” Steven Lindsey, the commander of Discovery’s final journey, told The Associated Press from orbit last month.

Lindsey hopes Discovery is displayed so the “entire public can see Discovery as we see her, and as the people who have worked on her at Kennedy Space Center see her.”

The skipper of the last shuttle flight, Christopher Ferguson, is rooting for Houston. He’ll fly Atlantis into orbit at the end of June on the 135th and final shuttle voyage.

“To me, this is the center of the human spaceflight universe,” Ferguson told reporters last month at Johnson Space Center.

The $28.8 million price tag is based on NASA’s estimate for transporting a shuttle from Kennedy to a major U.S. airport, atop a modified jumbo jet, and for displaying it indoors in a climate-controlled building. The cost will vary, depending on the locale. Kennedy’s visitor complex, for example, is just five miles down the road from the shuttle hangar, a short tow trip.

“We’re not quite sure how to pick it up over the guard gate,” Moore said. “I told somebody today, I tell you what, we’ll knock it down and build them a new one. It will still come out cheaper.”



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