Surplus Space Shuttles For Sale

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NASA Wednesday announced it is seeking information from educational institutions, science museums and the like, which may be able to afford and are interested in acquiring for display a retired Space Shuttle Orbiter. The cost to detoxify the fuel systems on each of three Space Shuttles currently in NASA's fleet (the Atlantis, Endeavour, and Discovery) will be passed on to the purchaser, along with the costs of preparation for final display and a ferry flight delivery to any U.S. destination that has an accessible 8,000-10,000 foot runway. Currently that lands the cost of one used Space Shuttle at about $42 million of which about six million will go toward delivery. (NASA's Web site lists the cost of the Space Shuttle Endeavour at $1.7 billion.) The agency expects to have officially retired the Shuttles from service by September 2010 and wants to have them out of their hands "no later than May 31, 2012." A Shuttle first went into orbit April 12, 1981. Prior to delivery, each retired Shuttle will have been neutered, arriving to its new owner lacking the liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen main engines located at the rear of each Shuttle. But organizations may be able to acquire those separately (for anywhere from about $400,000 to $800,000 each), and perhaps as early as mid-2009. At least six non-flight-worthy unassembled or partially assembled but complete main engine packages would be brought together by NASA for "display engine 'kits.'" At this time, NASA is just "interested in identifying whether potential recipient organizations are capable of bearing the full cost" involved in making the vehicles safe for public placement. And the agency does have at least one preferred recipient in the National Air and Space Museum. The remaining two flown Orbiters would be placed in storage at the John F. Kennedy Space Center until final placement decisions are made. NASA does list important considerations for other aspiring recipients.

NASA notes that "it may not be possible to completely remove all residual hazards from the hardware," and the agency "will clearly identify any unusual hazards that are not removed" prior to delivery to any recipient. According to the agency, to officially qualify as a potential recipient, "you must be: 1) a U.S. museum, institution, or organization dedicated to education or educational outreach, including NASA Visitor Centers; 2) a U.S. Federal agency, State, Commonwealth, or U.S. possession or any municipal corporation or political subdivision thereof; or 3) the District of Columbia." See all the details, here.