The PJ Tatler

That Space Shuttle Belongs in Houston

Today there’s a space shuttle floating on a barge across New York City. It should not be there.

The space shuttle Enterprise, strapped to a barge, cruised past the Statue of Liberty on Wednesday on its way to its new home at a museum on New York’s Hudson River.

For a shuttle that never made it into space, Enterprise has had quite a journey. In April, hundreds of tourists and New Yorkers watched in awe as Enterprise flew over the city piggy-backed on a Boeing 747 Jumbo jet.

Enterprise drew more crowds on Wednesday on the banks of the Hudson to watch the NASA spacecraft make its final approach to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Manhattan’s west side.

Despite never flying in space, Enterprise holds a special place in American history having been the first of NASA’s space shuttles. In 1977 it was used for a series of approach and landing tests during a nine-month period.

And then the petty little man in the White House used Enterprise to poke Texans in the eye. President Obama awarded the retired shuttles to California, Florida, the Air & Space annex near Washington Dulles airport, and New York. The first three have strong connections to the shuttle missions, but New York did not. It’s impossible to ignore the politics — two blue states and a swing state got shuttles along with the obvious choice to place one in the Air & Space museum, while red state Texas was left out despite its strong connection to manned space flight. Houston’s Johnson Space Center has been the mission control center for every shuttle mission. When shuttle astronauts spoke with anyone on the ground, their messages either went directly to Houston or were routed elsewhere through Houston. Go-no go orders, routine message traffic, commands, wake-up calls, everything came from JSC’s mission control. Adjacent to JSC is one of the best air and space museums in the world. But it’s incomplete as long as there is no space shuttle there.

The decision not to house a shuttle in Houston is another reminder that President Barack Obama never saw himself as president of all of the American people, only the ones living in states that voted for him.