Why Houston Did Not Get A Shuttle

Immediate reaction from many people in the Houston area was that the Orbiter disposition decision was politically tainted.  For example, this was the explanation of my old Rice classmate Annise Parker, her honor the Mayor of Houston.

Maybe there is some truth to that.  It’s hard to say what goes on inside the Washington beltway with any certainty.

But my suspicions lie closer to home.  Houston didn’t get an orbiter because Houston didn’t deserve it.

Not that we don’t have a long history with the shuttle; it was largely designed here; the program was managed from here from the beginning to the end, every single mission was planned here, the astronauts who flew the shuttle are based here, trained here, live here.  Mission control is here.  KSC is the only real competition for closest historical tie to the shuttle, no disrespect to Marshall, Stennis, Dryden or other NASA centers. 

But Houston is blasé about the shuttles.  Houston and Texas have come to regard NASA and JSC as entitlements.  We deserve JSC and the shuttle just because of who we are. 

Not true.  Anything worthwhile is worth fighting for.

No disrespect to those who spearheaded the effort to bring the shuttle here, but the response was lackluster.  The local politicians gave lip service, some weak letters to the NASA administrator and little else.  We got a limp editorial or two in the local newspaper.  The movers and shakers downtown barely lifted a finger.  Its hard to tell if Austin and the Texas Legislature even knew what was happening.  A rally at city hall was poorly attended, too little, too late, and totally  ineffective. 

You can tell that Texas regards involvement with NASA as an entitlement by the evidence:  when was the last time a sitting governor came to JSC?  I know the answer:  Ann Richards in 1995.  When was the last time the Houston mayor bothered to visit JSC?  Anybody remember?

Other states have strong programs to bring space investments to their states; Texas has virtually nothing.

Thousands of high paid, white collar jobs are leaving the Clear Lake area as NASA and JSC wind down.  The City of Houston and the State of Texas have done, well, next to nothing.  Nobody gets excited; nobody tries to bring new work here, a little lip service, no real effort. 

Nope, Houston does not deserve an orbiter because Houston doesn’t care. 

Don’t expect JSC and its mission control to be here forever just because we are entitle to them. 

No, with the level of interest that our citizens and leaders have in JSC, I soon expect to see that facility in the hands of a different federal agency.  Soon the National Park Service will be leading tours through the historic – and empty – halls of the Johnson Space Center National Historic Site.

Because we just don’t care enough to do anything about it.

About waynehale

Wayne Hale is retired from NASA after 32 years. In his career he was the Space Shuttle Program Manager or Deputy for 5 years, a Space Shuttle Flight Director for 40 missions, and is currently a consultant and full time grandpa. He is available for speaking engagements through Special Aerospace Services.
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124 Responses to Why Houston Did Not Get A Shuttle

  1. FG says:

    wow… well said. I appreciate your honesty. Moving to this area, I was astonished at how much the people and media in the area didn’t seem to care (although I hate to use that word) when it came to JSC, astronauts, spaceflight, etc. I was completely star-struck when I would meet an astronaut, but many around here seemed less impressed… “my neighbor is an astronaut… who cares?” is sort of the reaction I felt.

    But the real danger of this attitude is not with orbiters or museums… and its not just in the JSC area: it’s with our kids and our education. NASA used to be a real, undeniable force getting students interested in the STEM education fields. I worry that it is no longer that, and I worry more that it won’t ever be again.

    Again, love your blog. Keep it up.

  2. Eileen Walsh says:

    As much as the truth hurts, I think you hit the nail on the head here. JSC has been taken for granted by Houston and Texas leaders. If this wasn’t a wake-up call for them, I don’t know what is and they had better get their heads out of the sand before it’s too late, or as you say, JSC will turn into a National Historic Site and not a place where great scientific achievements continue to be made.

  3. Bill Williamson says:

    Wayne.. I have lived here at KSC and worked on shuttle since its day in Palmdale with Rockwell.. after 33 years, this article is much more profound that you even give it credit for..
    What you described here about the lackkuster Houston and Texas’s efforts really applies to Every American Tax payer….. How you ask?? Because they allowed the US Goverment to get away with cancelling Shuttle without a replacement program.. Once Constellation was effectively killed, the “intent” of closing the space shuttle program in 2004 was no longer valid.. We should still be flying shuttle, eben at a reduced flight rate, until the United States can support our own access to the ISS or LEO.. You know it and so do many thousands of people around this program..

    I blame the Mass media and NASA for not keeping the American Tax payer properly informed and the Lackluster drive to keep America a shining star on that hill of manned space flight.. American’s live in a high speed world, they did not show up to say “hold on here” why are we wasting all ths money? Why are we losing all these experienced people? The folks that we paid to train.. How can a President say we want to create jobs here, yet under the radar, destory communities and lives while send their work to other countires…

    You Mr. Hale.. you said a mouthful.. and you hit the nail right on the head.. it was not just Houston or Texas.. it was the every voting American that allowed this to happen!!

    Thanks for the artical and your blog..

    The unfortunate

    All of here at KSC were just as surprised JSC did not get an orbiter.. not being there, most of us had no idea of the lack of effort Texas displayed for one, until today..

  4. Jim Hillhouse says:

    I think Wayne I’d spot on in his comments about the…let’s call it what it is, relaxed attitude that Texas political leaders have about JSC and space.

    I sat through three meetings in the mid-2000’s as Texas tried to get Gov. Perry and the legislature to fund a spaceport and other activities, all without success. The TX Aerospace Commission was absorbed into the Governor’s Economic Dlvpmt. Dept. in 2003. Since then, it hasn’t done a lot. From all indicators, it appears that aerospace is not a priority with the State’s leadership.

    For so long perhaps TX could take a laid-back attitude towards NASA-JSC. Goodness knows that in KBH we have a Senator who has been a force of nature on space matters, as the WH learned the hard way last year. But she’s not running for reelection in 2012 and with her departure will follow her effectiveness.

    Will KBH’s replacement be as active on space for the state? I’ve never heard of any interest in the space program expressed by our Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Railroad Commissioner Williams or any of the other candidates likely to throw their hat in the ring.

    Last visit by a TX Gov. was 1995? That’s sad…

  5. Louis Cioletti says:

    I suppose the argument you pose is largely valid. We do take a lot for granted at JSC. We live in the 4th largest city with a moniker as “Space City”. I can’t help but wonder if we did begin our campaign earlier to secure a shuttle and had more national, state, and local political leaders participating (i.e. lobbying) and tried to boost public attendance figures at Space Center Houston, etc., would that have made a difference? I personally don’t think so. How much more was needed to convince General Bolden when he lived and worked at JSC for many years? So I guess your blog could have been much shorter by just commenting on the ramifications of a political decision, which evidently it was.
    What we should do now is bring Columbia artifacts to Houston and create memorial to our fallen heroes. Columbia needs to be here since it descended over Texas. In this way, we will honor and pay tribute to a great program and still receive our Shuttle.

  6. Wayne –

    Thanks for the dose of reality…

    Honestly, I had fallen into the “we’re entitled” camp, too, and my first reactions were extremely visceral — ranging from disbelief that we weren’t automatically #1 or #2 to anger/outrage that “someone, somewhere slighted us”.

    Reading your post, and a few other comments over the last day or two on other sites, has given me some perspective on this, and I’ve calmed down enough to think about the situation rationally again.

    I have encountered *FAR* more interest in what we do/did at JSC since I left than I ever did in the Houston and (especially) Clear Lake area. I was often puzzled by the increased enthusiasm the “further away from the flagpole I got”, but chalked it up to “well, everyone was involved, so it didn’t seem as unique” when I was there at JSC.

    I think I now have to account for the possibility that what you’ve said here is a large contributing factor, too.

    As an (almost) lifelong Texan, it pains me to think that my great state has not done everything it could to keep this *honor* of being the home of manned spaceflight, rather than rest on its laurels and assume that entitlements would continue to flow… just because.

    Well said, again, Wayne… thanks.

  7. aaron says:

    I agree that the local level of governmental committment is laughable but one cannot ignore other mittigating factors. I believe the decision was, in part, political. I also believe that history should count for something. From a historical standpoint, we should at least be hosting Endeavor.

    I think the people of Houston are extremely proud of our space heritage and want desperately to keep it. That said, I think we deserve more than two shuttle seats.

  8. Eileen Hawley says:

    An excellent analysis Wayne. Add into the equation that we have a visitor center that lacks the foot traffic required to convince decision makers a Shuttle would be widely viewed by being in Texas. I am certain some politics entered into the decision, but yes, Houston, Texas and its leaders simply assumed we had some rights here. It was ours to lose. And we did.

    • Kendra says:

      Eileen, I agree with your point about Space Center Houston. It’s just not comparable to the visitors’ center at KSC, so maybe that played into the decision.

      Wayne, as for your main point, I am realizing that I’m guilty of that complacence. Although I’m not in Houston anymore, I received a couple of emails asking me to join petitions for this issue. I honestly don’t remember if I signed up. I remember thinking “why does this need a petition? Of COURSE Houston will be getting a shuttle.” And while I do still believe that JSC’s history should have counted for something, this has been a sobering reminder not to take anything for granted.

  9. NASA fan says:

    Good points. Expanding on “Thousands of high paid, white collar jobs are leaving the Clear Lake area as NASA and JSC wind down. The City of Houston and the State of Texas have done, well, next to nothing.”

    Bringing/keeping space jobs to the Clear Lake area is also a prime mission of that area’s local “economic partnership” isn’t it ? While City and the State elected officials are much to blame it can’t just squarely fall on just them alone when there are groups specific tasked by the community to make things like this happen (i.e., bringing a Shuttle to Houston) to stimulate the local economy.

  10. Kristen Howard says:

    I don’t think that’s fair at all. I could probably find thousands of people here in the Clear Lake area who, in fact, care very, very much – so much so that they’ve dedicated their lives to the space program. According to you, these people should be punished for the inaction of politicians.

    Par for the course, I guess.

    • Cielo says:

      No, not punished. BUT they and all of Texas will suffer BECAUSE of the lack of action on Texas’s “leaders” part as well as the “we deserve it” attitude. Our “proposal” was done quickly and shoddily. Our state is so broke, that it can’t fund education and yet people are screaming at the loss of a shuttle that wasn’t ours in the 1st place. How were we going to show it off? Maintain it? Present it to the world? There isn’t any money for none of that, either. Look at the Saturn V; in an ugly garage with no windows, rusted and ignored. Look at the Astrodome; falling apart from the inside and not safe for public use (it caught fire during the rodeo). If that is how Houston cares for its “historical artifacts” then we DON’T deserve the Shuttle. No matter how many people “dedicated their lives to space exploration.” On Earth, we treat our artifacts like last week’s trash. No, we DON’T deserve a shuttle or indeed, anything of historical signifiance.

      • Chris says:

        Yeah and California’s state budget is in sooo much better shape than ours (Texas’) right? They are broke!.. how will they pay for it?… that’s right, the US Government will most certainly subsidize the cost. Don’t get me wrong, I think our Texas “leaders” have COMPLETELY failed us on this issue — Houston, of all places, should be home to a Shuttle. Utter shock that it will not be.

  11. ML says:

    While the Shuttle was designed and managed here, we should not be remorseful for not having won the prize for our own. Should we not consider our most valuable prize the men and women of the astronaut corps, who were and are our friends and neighbors here in the Greater Clear Lake area? More so, we should prize those who gave their lives for what those Houstonians and Texans you say have taken for granted.

    Go drive slowly around the City of El Lago this weekend. Sitting to our east in the shadow of the Center, you can see a celebration of 50 years of incorporation and proudly claiming to be The City of the Astronauts. The residences of our astronaut friends who served in Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle are marked with signs indicating the missions on which they flew. Stop and reflect at each for a moment and consider the humans involved with the vehicles they rode in. Let’s focus the emotions, energies and funds toward remembering the relationships that no one else can claim.

  12. Wayne,
    I am not a resident of Houston or Texas. But from historical aspects of the Space Shuttle, I felt like JSC and KSC should have a Shuttle.

    But if as you and others that have replied about Houston’s lack of interest in the Shuttle, then so be it.

  13. George Purcell says:

    Had a shuttle gone to Dayton, I might have agreed with you. But however blase Houston might have been it isn’t a place that is actively hostile to human spaceflight like New York City. Sending a shuttle there was a travesty.

  14. Sam says:


    Oh my gosh!! Your blog depressed the heck out of me! Not because of what you said or how you said it … But because of its truth.

    I fell in love with space the moment I realized what stars and planets were, and have loved NASA since I was a young boy of 5 years old. I grew up in east New Orleans, just about 2 miles from Michoud – construction site of the Shuttle’s external fuel tank. It was NASA that started me on the computer technology path.

    Being a current resident of the Clear Lake area, it saddens me to see the Houstonian apathy surrounding the space program and JSC. It is said that “experience is the best teacher” … Well, this is one lesson I regret having learned.

  15. Scott McCoy says:

    Those of us lucky enough to live close to KSC enjoy the fairly regular thrill of watching launches. I can see launches at about T+30 seconds from both my office and my home for KSC and Canaveral AFS, and there are always local people pulled over to the side of the road, in parking lots, etc., for every launch. Perhaps this is one reason that folks on the Space Coast have maintained such a grass-roots enthusiasm for the space program.

    • Jim Hillhouse says:

      The difference in enthusiasm for space between the KSC area and JSC area is night and day. Supporting the space program is an electoral issue in Florida; it is a non-issue in Texas. In late 2008 I met your Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp at a discussion about the space program at Brevard Community College, which was also attended by Congressman Posey, State Senate President-elect Haridopolis, State House of Representatives member Dean Cannon and several others, Frank DiBello and about 30 other people. At the time, SpaceFlorida had just been appropriated something on the order of $60 million, this at a time of decreasing Florida state budgets. Kottkamp was emphatic about the importance of the space program to Florida and to the nation.

      Florida has earned a Shuttle.

      The Texas spaceport meetings I attended were small, perhaps 10 people, we had a couple of hack staffers from the Governor’s office who treated the whole event as though it were an interruption of their Happy Hour routine, and in the end we couldn’t get $50K from the Texas Legislature. One of the staffers accidentally blurted that the spaceport effort was not a high priority. Nice!

      I have to say that when it comes to the importance of space exploration, the current attitude of its Texas state leaders stands in sharp contrast to that of its Congressional delegation; KBH, Cornyn, and most of the Congressional delegation get it.

  16. Ronald Smith says:

    First of all, I have to say I am very fortunate to live in Virginia where we were awarded Discovery and will be looking forward to seeing her on the Dulles tarmac along side Enterprise. I will admit that I was not convinced that Houston”Deserved” and orbiter, but at the same time did not think Intrepid “deserved” one either (you should see their privileged reactions, complaining Enterprise is not a “real” orbiter… sheesh) and have to admit I was pulling for Dayton instead as it is an amazing museum. that being said. no matter how little lobbying Houston did still does not excuse the little artifacts they were awarded. Two seats, really?!?! I can tell you everyone that I have heard from across the nation is amazed by how NASA HQ has pretty much gutted JSC of items, and as someone from the outside I can definitely see how they are outraged. The only consolation prize that I can think of that has not been allocated is ET-94, maybe that can be moved to JSC after it is used for the SLS MPTA testing.

  17. Ross Taylor says:

    I posted this earlier with links which seem to have landed it in comment moderation. Sorry for the repost.

    A week ago, the Dayton Daily News wrote about all of the efforts from Houston trying to secure a shuttle. In their opinion and mine it was a reasonable effort but, as the Houston Chronicle reported almost a month ago, it was clear that Houston was a long shot for political reasons.

    But Houston should be entitled to an orbiter, just like KSC. The Space Coast could not possibly have a stronger case. It is equal on history but significantly behind in population and other merits. I’m not trying to argue that KSC should not have gotten one, just that the only clear difference is political: Florida voted for Obama, Florida is always a swing state, and Bill Nelson. It is the same reason that, when Obama gutted the space programs at JSC and KSC, he promised extra money to KSC to save jobs but nothing to JSC.

    Even if you are right that the effort was lackluster, though the DDN article seems to argue against that, the workers at JSC, their families, and the Houston population should not suffer. There are thousands in the area that have worked on the Shuttle program that have never seen one in person and will now have to travel nearly 1000 miles or more if they ever want to. And what’s worse, that does not seem to be getting much attention, is that they are also taking away the shuttle simulators that have been used at JSC to train the astronauts. JSC will be left with “flight deck commander and pilot seats.” Wow!

    • Steve Pemberton says:

      “There are thousands in the area that have worked on the Shuttle program that have never seen one in person and will now have to travel nearly 1000 miles or more if they ever want to.”

      I realize it wouldn’t be consolation but I am hoping that Endeavour will make a stop in Houston on its way to California. And I don’t mean the normal refueling stop but I mean an organized event where the public can come and see it up close. And certainly there should also be a special event for current and former workers. In fact I like an idea that I have heard a couple of times which is to do a multi-city tour with the Orbiters as they make their way to their final destinations. Not just flyovers, but again these would be organized up close viewing opportunities in parts of the country that are far from the permanent locations. At first I thought the idea was far-fetched due to the cost and logistics, but on further reflection this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to let the entire country have a chance at seeing a Space Shuttle. Charles Lindbergh spent a year taking the Spirit of St. Louis to city after city in 48 states drawing unprecedented crowds. He did this to promote aviation and it was very effective. NASA could do something similar with the Orbiters and get similar results I think.

      The decision on where the Orbiters will permanently reside is over but there is still time for the residents of Houston to start pushing for an Orbiter to make a stop there including up close access by the public. If no one pushes for it that won’t happen either.

  18. JohnGaltTexas says:

    Amen. So its not just me. As I suspected, but dared never say, that bright light during the day isn’t the sun, its the Manned Space Program DGAS indicator. But I do believe that there were also some skullduggerous partisan politics at play here too.

  19. Shuttle politics aside, you’ve raised more important points about what, if anything, Houston is doing to keep space exploration/development as part of the mix in our local economy. We’re about to experience a huge brain drain as all of the shuttle people migrate to different projects in different cities. One friend of ours is excited about opportunities he’s found in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh? Who ever thought someone would go FROM Houston TO Pittsburgh to look for new opportunities in science, engineering, and technology?!

    Houston has always done better when we’ve focused on the future and hustling to make the new happen here than resting on any laurels. I am extremely disappointed we won’t have a shuttle, but more concerned about what our next steps will be to make sure we’re part of whatever is next.

  20. BW says:

    Texans are too proud to beg… for anything.

  21. Darrel Monroe says:

    The only problem I see in this argument is that what you call taking something for granted is the case with anything that is close to you. It is human nature to norm what exists about you. An astronaut to someone who never sees one except on TV is awe inspiring. You look at them differently if they are your coworker, neighbor, Sunday School Teacher, Scoutmaster, bowling buddy. They are just a fellow human, friend, etc not a celebrity. How many locals ad opposed to visitors to the city go see the Battleship Texas? San Jacinto Monument? How many people in say DC (except kiddos on school field trips) visit the Smithsonian or monuments on a regular basis as opposed to visitors to the city? It is simply human nature to take for granted what is near. There is the thought in the back of the mind that “oh, I can go there anytime”. My oldest is 11 and has been to Space Center Houston a mere handful of times. Not that I don’t think what is there is important. But when not intentionally going on a trip somewhere to see the sights, we have our lives here to live. Your time when not on vacation becomes filled with the ordinary but important things of life. Cleaning the house, scout meetings, band concerts, school plays, helping with homework, and of course your job. The ultimate point is that maybe you are right about taking something for granted, but almost all humans everywhere take for granted what is close. Its not an exclusive failing ob the part of Houston.

  22. Lou Minatti says:

    There’ a lot of nonsense in this post, excusing a blatant poltical decision. You talk about enthusiasm and gratitude… I don’t recall any pep rallies in NYC or LA. In fact I’ll wager that the vast majority of residents in those cities didn’t even know about it.

    Bolden says his assistant made the recommendations and he just follwed her plan. I am not sure why her job as working for NASA “environmental sustainability” makes her qualified.

    • reed kelly says:

      It wasn’t Bolden’s assistant. A team of folks worked on it for years, and they usd metrics, not emotion, in their decision making. The cities chosen were able to raise funds, had the ability to transport the orbiter to its location, and were most visible so the greatest number of American tax payers could see if. Please, let’s stick to facts. Politics had nothing to do with the decision.

  23. Mike says:

    Wayne, while I respect your opinion, I have to disagree with you. Based on the criteria used to make the decision, Houston deserves an orbiter more than any other place in the US. Houston’s sense of “entitlement” for the orbitor is because of it’s DIRECT connection to the space shuttle program. It would be like NY having to sell itself on where to place a 911 memorial. Internationally, when people think of NASA and the space shuttle, they think of Houston. And for those who argue that Houston isn’t a tourist location or a location where the most people wouldn’t get the most visibility, then you would have to eliminate KSC as well.

    Your statement that “Houston doesn’t care” isn’t anywhere near the truth. If you are feeling unappreciated for the efforts during your career at NASA, then don’t cast your self pity to the community around you. NASA is a piece of Houston and we LOVE the fact that we are associated with it. You don’t speak for the city in the least bit. The fact that YOU got yours while you were at NASA, doesn’t mean that it has to end when you leave. Your apathy isn’t shared.

    • waynehale says:

      I don’t pretend to speak for the city of Houston, and I don’t need any more accolades for my career. If you love NASA, please do something about it, and writing comments to blog posts is not enough.

      • Mike Smith says:

        Wayne this was the first article of yours I have read and it will be the last!

        From what I gather from your article is, you are just another retired civil servant. How dare you speak for the Clear Lake Area saying we don’t care about manned space flight. We live it here, our neighbors and friends created it. Our neighbors and friends have also died for it. If our liberal Mayor did less than expected I am sorry. But I do have first hand knowledge of when constellation was canceled the outrage in the Clear lake are was tremendous. Congressman spoke rallies were held people lined the streets outside JSC. The same thing happened when we were snubbed by not getting an orbitor. This was all political just like the ban on drilling. Just like killing constellation with out a replacement. The current administration which includes Bolden is out to pay Houston and Texas back for not voting blue. It is a disgrace and anybody that has fallen for your poorly written article is just another kool aid drinker. You sir are a disgrace to JSC and all those who have seved there as Civil servants and contractors.

      • waynehale says:

        Yep, I’m just another retired civil servant. I did not speak for anybody but me, certainly not for Clear Lake. I am still saddened that the greater Houston area and Texas did not put out more effort to gain an orbiter. But far more than that, I am worried that Houston and Texas are not working hard enough to ensure that my friends and collegues in Clear Lake and the surrounding area are key players in the future of space exploration.

      • dave s phoenix, az says:

        Wayne, why, when the citizens and the congress did not want our space program killed, ( and it is ), is one man able to get away with this outrage ? ( The President. ) I wondered a lot why YOU and the shuttle astronauts said hardly a word about this destruction, and I concluded, as did another person who posted above, that you guys got yours. That’s precisely what I think. Only a few Apollo guys and Kraft and Kranz tried to correct this travesty. ( I think they spoke for all the apollo teams, by the way. ) We could have flown Orions on our expendable rockets, very doable, but no one would fight for it. How sad. I dont think HSF will ever be started up again, at least not for generations.

  24. Stephanie says:

    @ Ronald Smith

    What was JSC going to do with these artifacts if they were allowed to keep them? Have you seen or heard of a plan?

    @ Wayne
    A well written post. Additionally, Houston isn’t a tourist hot spot, nor have we (JSC) taken good care of one of the artifacts we currently have – Saturn V.

  25. Tara says:

    I would love to see this published in the Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman or Express-News as a “Shame on you, Texas.” I lived in the Clear Lake area and worked in the space industry for 5+ years until my husband joined the Army and we had to move. During that time, I couldn’t believe the blase’ attitude everyone had towards NASA. Yes sir, I do believe you hit the nail on the head. Luckily, the motion based simulator will be right up the road at A&M so at least there will be something of value left in Texas.

  26. Joe says:

    Houston. It’s time to share.

    Getting the retired shuttles in front of millions of eyeballs shall payoff for NASA’s human space flight someday. New York, LA, Washington, and Florida have far more tax paying eyeballs completely oblivious to space achievements, than Texas, since Texas is the home base of everything related to human space flight.

    It is time for sharing and helping others understand what NASA is capable of, whether it is here or there. Hopefully, other powerful states will gain greater recognition from funding politicians interested in creating jobs and NASA will grow because of other states that feel they should get involved and make greater overall contributions to human space flight similar to what Texas has accomplished in manned space. If they don’t, then NASA is going to rely on foreign states to do it better, faster, and cheaper. The one and only one reason why NASA JSC is here is because of one man who is long gone but not forgotten. No one on the face of the planet can force NASA to do it worse, slower, and more expensively.

    It reminds me of the movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” where no one could force a kid to eat the rotten slice of cheese that was stuck to the ground in the playground.

    NASA is all about capturing the public’s attention. Hurling people into space gets people’s attention to some extent. Getting those people to experience something all of us can only dream of, no doubt gets people’s attention. The dream of achieving something that rarely occurs, after spending billions of discretionary funds to pull off the spectacular feat, is what keeps NASA going. No other government entity can even come close to doing that.

  27. Heather says:

    What an absolutely well-written blog. I couldn’t agree more with some of the comments left regarding the “relaxed” attitude. I was born and raised a Texan and have always been a HUGE advocate for NASA and the Space Program. I grew up wanting to be an astronaut and have always been absolutely enamored with the space program. Like the first comment, I would probably flip out, grab my camera and ask for autographs if I was to “run into” an astronaut the next time I visit my brother in Houston… I think I’d probably Google “astronaut hangouts Houston” so I could better my chances at getting to meet one out and about! I find it very sad that the city of Houston AND the state as a whole didn’t put forth the effort deserving of an orbiter. I guess I just didn’t realize how few space fanatics and history buffs are left in the state… Sad day.

  28. nora says:

    Well said Mr Hale!

  29. David Brady says:

    If Houston & Texas failed to bring the Shuttle home, why is it that so many still feel that the wrong decision was made? It’s a question of fairness versus recognition. If the goal was to take a national asset & provide maximum access to it (so “everyone” could feel that they have a share in it), they probably accomplished that utilitarian goal. The reason so many find this unfair is that the decision prioritized exposure & virtual participation over the recognition of exceptional accomplishments. If recognizing excellence (notably, a NASA trademark) is a national priority, the lack of attention by JSC or Houston or Texas shouldn’t stand in the way of our national government sending the right message to future generations. If not, then the future NASA will be based upon different standards than those that brought me to JSC in 1989. I agree with Wayne that an attitude of entitlement (within the NASA workforce or local politics) is a recipe for failure. However, the Shuttle decision fails to provide a proper accounting for the effort of so many dedicated Americans to achieve excellence. Ironically, it appears that a local attitude of entitlement may have provided rationale for a decision that prioritized national entitlement over the recognition of national achievement.

  30. Mad about Shuttle not coming to Houston says:

    Gosh dang you Wayne Hale and putting my blind rage about Houston not getting a shuttle into perspective…now I feel like an idiot for all my facebook rants.

  31. Captain Cook says:

    What kind of idiot are you? Are you saying that the people with the most money and the biggest mouths are more deserving of everything. Maybe we have jobs, maybe we cannot jump on the bandwagon for every silly survey or rally? That does not mean we don’t care or are not deserving. This is another liberal slant to a political slight/slam to everyone who lives here and loves technology, JSC, and the legacy of President Johnson. We are entitled to it, we have spent our loves working for it only to have the cruel bho and cb rip it from us like theives in the night! Please keep the Shuttle in Houston! Find a way to keep it for the families of the fallen, the integrity of the Johnson Space Center, for the legacy of LBJ, for the future of the Space Program, for everyone who has loved those birds and has watched them and dreamed about deep space travel, for the NASA employees who worked and trained on them, and lastly for me. I want the shuttle to stay in Houston! NASA was the first place we visited when we moved here and I want to be able to visit regularly and see MY shuttle! Our tax dollars paid for it and we should have it. There are more sad people in Houston than happy people in all the other recepient locations combined. This is shocking and ridiculous. GLAD these people are trying to reverse the decision.

    • waynehale says:

      Yep, I’m a pretty big idiot. I really believe in the space program. I just can’t stand the fact that other folks take it for granted. Oh, and thanks for calling me a liberal. That is the first time I’ve ever gotten that description.

    • Graham says:

      You’re not entitled to anything. It’s not your shuttle. Houston is 2% of the tax base. And yes, when it comes to tourist attractions the biggest mouths and pockets ARE the more deserving. That’s what tourism is about.

      • Darrel Monroe says:

        So Graham, when it comes to tourism, it’s an all or nothing thing. If you already have tourism, then you deserve more. So I guess we should move the Battleship Texas to New York next to the Intrepid, since more will see it there. Why not crate up the San Jacinto Monument and set it up next to the Statue of Liberty. More will see it there. We can move the Star of the Republic museum there too, and even more will see it in a day than probably weeks at Independence, TX.

        Just because a place is bigger and has more shouldn’t be an automatic entitlement for them either to get everything from here on out.

    • Jim Hillhouse says:

      Cap’n, go to places like Florida’s Space Coast and you’ll see people who do work…and this is important, will get out on a weekend for a rally to support the space program. The last rally in Texas for the space program was…well, it wasn’t anytime since 1986 when I moved back to Texas.

      Our state really needs to do this better.

  32. Jason says:

    One correction: Rick Perry did visit JSC atleast once. I recall him giving a speech to the press in B9 near the mockups.

    Your points are well taken, however.


  33. Beth Webber says:

    One more comment from me; the picture you paint of JSC becoming nothing more than an historical site really depressed me! I don’t know if we (the American people) are so self absorbed that we cannot see that space exploration is an investment in our future, maybe so. But there seem to be an awful lot of folks that love the space program; or maybe it only seems that way to me, since I haunt the same places they do.


  34. Joe says:

    Your essay is completely wrong. The reason was pure politics and nothing else.

  35. How many serious contenders does Houston, the so-called “space city” have for the competitive space prizes available here?



    The last I checked, the answer was equal to the quantity of Shuttles recently awarded to Houston. Houston doesn’t care about space unless taxpayers pay it to. But with our astronomical national debt:


    such a tax-leeching mentality will cave in to baby boomers’ growing entitlement demands.

    • Ross Taylor says:

      And how many of the teams are from NYC, Los Angeles, or Titusville? I tried to check your claim and find these numbers but it seems exceedingly difficult. That said, I haven’t heard of any teams from those cities. However, there are quite a few new space companies in Texas.

      And if you want to be critical about the economic benefit of NASA on Houston, you have to use the same logic in Florida. In fact, they received cash to help those laid off while Houston got nothing. If anyone is milking the taxpayer, it is KSC.

  36. Sharron Crowson says:

    I will tell you first I don’t work at NASA or JSC, second, my sister does, and her husband did, and my husband retired as a contractor working in Building 30 to keep their computers and workstations running. We moved here more than 25 years ago specifically so my husband might have the chance to work on shuttle and the space program.

    I can tell you, there are a lot people at JSC are bewildered by the attitude of NASA and the community toward JSC. It seems every time you turn around something is happening to further curtail JSC’s role in NASA and space exploration. This area is losing thousands of high tech jobs, and not as much through rifs as through just plain being thoroughly discouraged and heart-sick at what is happening. I know my sister, who has given most of her adult life to work for the exploration of space, is so discouraged she is thinking seriously of early retirement. I am sure she is not the only one. Think of the expertise, the hard work, the training, and very specialized knowledge that we are losing every single day. And our state does nothing about it. Texas does so very little to encourage private corporations to begin the exploration, does nothing to keep all that knowledge here in this state, does nothing to keep the jobs they say they want here.

    I think you are right when you say Texas thinks it’s entitled. Well, it’s not. It’s only entitled to work to make things happen, and it’s doing a really poor job of that. So many people with degrees who can earn a LOT more doing something more lucrative sacrificed to make discoveries and take us to the edge of space, to help us gain a foothold there. It’s people lives, and if you want to be practical about it, all that money spent to gain that experience and knowledge, and now we are just going to let it dribble away until there really is nothing left but history. It’s a spectacular history full of drama and rescues, firsts and lasts, discovery and exploration, but unless people around here wake up to the fact that we are losing a great part of what makes Houston a city to be noticed by the world, that’s all it will be . . . history. Someone else’s children will get to make the trip to Mars, or to colonize the moon, or to find new sources of raw materials and energy. Our children and grandchildren will have lost the initiative, will have to apply elsewhere if they want to be part of the future that takes us to the stars.

  37. KeJo says:

    Wayne, nice try, but you still can’t overlook the fact that NASA is Houston more than any other city by far.
    It was our citizens who died in those failed attempts and the decision to snub Houston is a disgrace that cannot be defended. Your blog is only an attempt to justify a horrible decision made by your colleague and friend. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were payoffs involved.
    Your main argument about the commitment to space is valid, if you meant the NATION’S commitment. Mayor visits? Poor dog and pony shows? verrrrrry scientific.
    The reality is that Houston IS Space City, it’s where you got your start, but now that you’ve left you have no trouble trying to bury us down here, Go to Hell.

    • waynehale says:

      Normally I would not approve a comment with such wording but the emotion that KeJo shows deserves a response. First of all, I did not move away. I live where I have been for the last 22 years, in the Clear Lake area. I haven’t left and I do agree with your comment that those natives of our area who gave their blood for the success of the space program should have bought the right to at least have an orbiter here. So if I was not clear, let me say so now; the reason for my post was that Houston and Texas takes the space program, JSC, and the Space Shuttle for granted. If we here continue to have that attitude, we will lose even more. Are you mad; well, so am I. It was unfair, unjust, and undeserved. But we cannot count on the brave deeds of the past to guarantee the future. We must fight our own battles each day.

  38. Glenn says:

    Thank you Wayne for the great insight. When I look at the Saturn-5 at JSC it is not that impressive… a modest tin building with poor lighting… and little of the media hoopla one would expect. It felt gray and dull. Putting an Orbiter in similar light would also be disappointing.

  39. David Lamar says:

    As a fellow Rice grad, I believe that when Humble Oil transferred the property which is now JSC to Rice University, and Rice rented it to the U.S. Gov’t “in perpetuity” for $1, there was a stipulation that should NASA ever abandon the site, it would revert to Rice. If this is true, then Rice would literally have the greatest engineering lab facilities of any university in the world. OTOH, it would be like killing the Institute with kindness; how on Earth could even a well-endowed university like Rice manage the upkeep on all that? As far as historical site and the National Park Service, I believe only Bldg. 30 where Mission Control is located is designated as a national historical site. The rest of it could literally be up for grabs. Rice could do what was done at Ames Research Center, where much of the site has been fenced off for commercial development and investment as a technology incubator. But realistically, is NASA going to leave Houston? I think not. Hopefully, NASA will reinvent itself in the 21st Century, post-Shuttle era just as it did almost 40 years ago in the post-Apollo era.

    • waynehale says:

      Sorry Dave, but that old story is not true. Rice sold the land to the Federal government (for a nominal amount of money) and has no retained rights to the land or property.

  40. Lisa Shore says:

    Wayne, I had the same reaction as you. Houston didn’t want it enough. Why else would I know the plans for Seattle, Ohio and KSC better than my own city? What I think is the true shame is that we were not given one of the full crew compartment trainers. JSC is the home of crew training as well as Mission Operations. We deserve one of the trainers that we have worked so hard in over the years. We have the Skylab trainer over at Space Center Houston and a CCT or the SMS would have been a fitting addition. That we didn’t get one was the political part in my mind. Keep the words of wisdom coming…

  41. Dave H. says:

    Wayne, I have a question for you…were people more upset over not getting an orbiter than they were when the Oilers announced that they were leaving town?

    From my perspective, KSC and Udvar-Hazy were pretty much no-brainers. Sending Enterprise to Dayton would have placed an artifact within reach of those in the Midwest, like Detroit, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, and St. Louis.
    But hey, Neil Armstrong has a great, albeit small, museum at the intersection of I-75 and US 33. It was the first time I’d ever seen a Shuttle wheel and tire assembly up close when I had to work in St. Mary’s a few months after the Columbia accident.
    John Glenn’s birth home is in New Concord, right off of I-70. Throw in Wright-Patterson, and you could say that Ohio certainly has the right stuff.

    For those of you who believe that these particular orbiters should still be flying, perhaps you should re-read the CAIB report and pay attention to the reasons they gave for wanting the fleet retired by the end of 2010. Corrosion and wiring issues don’t go away by wishing them away…and who in their right mind wants to see if the orbiters start shedding their aluminum skins like the 737s making the news lately?
    I don’t.

    America made the decision to not support STS after Endeavour was built.

    No one cares about space anymore. It’s all about Wall Street now.

    Which news story would make bigger headlines…”ISS Damaged By Meteor Collision” or “U.S. Economy In Peril Due To Failure To Extend The Debt Limit”?

  42. P. Savio says:

    KSC and National Air and Space Museum getting a Shuttle is a no brainer..so that leaves one Space Flown Shuttle to go somewhere else – maybe just maybe those in NASA thought it would be good if the west coast of the US got a Space Flown Shuttle for Tourism on the west coast, as 2 Space Flown Shuttles will be on the East coast effectively? Maybe Houston should have got Enterprise as a “token” Shuttle…..?

    I’d rather see all 3 Shuttles at KSC doing “Commercial” Shuttle for the next 5 or 6 years until there is an alternate vehicle (either Dragon or Orion or both).

  43. Steven B says:

    Mr. Hale —

    This article is very powerful, and tells the truth behind why the Shuttle has been fading away for a while now.

    Unless you’re really into the program, and understand what exactly humanity is doing in Space, and how effective having your own program is, you won’t know. I do believe JSC and Texas do know how effective it is, but after living “with” the program in their back yard, it’s just another thing to them. I guess they felt like they were getting an orbiter because of who they were, and didn’t really put up a front to show they wanted one, so the higher-ups decided not to give them one.

    I, for one, feel like it’s wrong to leave JSC with nothing but a few flown seats, but who am I to say what goes where? I’m a tax-payer, but lately that doesn’t mean much…

    Thanks again for your wonderful article.

    @Beth Webber – …”there seem to be an awful lot of folks that love the space program”… – To us, it does seem that way, but we know where they go, who to talk to, how to interact.. and to the “average” American, they don’t realize the importance of spaceflight and exactly what it is doing for our country, our world, our lives. It’s “just a rocket going to the moon”, they say… when in reality they don’t care enough to read, or understand, the amazing work that has gone into this vehicle and program.

    I’ll end my rant. Again, thanks for the wonderful article, Mr. Hale.

  44. Susan says:

    Rick Perry visited JSC in 2005 to tout the Emerging Technology Fund. George W. Bush, however, did not visit the center while serving as Texas governor.

    As far as the attitude of Houston and the rest of Texas, NASA is actually but a small part of a giant economy. While the cuts to NASA are sizable to the Clear Lake area, they barely reverberate elsewhere in Houston. Sad, but true. I believe that the shabby state of our Rocket Park had as much to do with being passed by as anything else. Our space artifacts are left to rot in the Texas sun, nearly falling to pieces. And when something finally was done to restore the Saturn V, it got enclosed in a warehouse that does not really showcase its magnificence.

    When I go to Huntsville, my eye is always drawn to the beautifully lit Saturn rocket visible from the freeway. When I drive down Saturn (!) Boulevard, I pay no more attention to the warehouse enclosing our Saturn rocket than I would any other uninspired piece of architecture in this area.

    Yeah, you said it best when you said that we don’t deserve a shuttle.

  45. Perry Baldwin says:

    It’s a miracle to me that a shuttle is coming to somewhere in the west. I live in Boise.

  46. Brook Morello says:

    REALLY?! Since when does the L.A. and the west coast not have enough tourism? I spent a week there with my family last summer doing a different tourism destination each day for 7 days and we still didn’t see half of what was in the area. The west coast has no lack of tourism destinations.

  47. 1 of 10000s says:

    As usual, I find myself in agreement with Wayne’s comments. However, it is sad to realize that thirty years of actions by tens of thousands of JSC workers were outweighed by the words of a much smaller number of local and national figures. In today’s political reality, actions no longer speak louder than words.

  48. Bill Williamson says:

    David H..

    The orbiters have had major structual mods to address thiose Corrosion and wiring issues .. the CAIB does not know everything… Shuttle should go private, United Space Alliance proposed that a few weeks ago and how to pay for it.. but that got brushed quickly under the carpet.. When Bush decided to retire shuttle that choice was based on the constellation program being operational and the proper congressional funding.. when it ws evident that the program was underfunded, yet almost operational, Obama had his chance to save this program, infact compaigned here in Florida on that to get our votes in 08.. However since the constellation program was too late, then canning shuttle should have been put on hold and we cold have flown a reduced flight rate until a heavy lift was operational..

    We lived it in person.. there was no doubt in our minds on what we were working on and why…Opinions and mis conceptions are the main political drivers behind this entire event.. in any case the USA has reduced itself to just another country on the may.. our once bright light is almost out.. a meir reflection of the people’s desire of mayhem and something to complain about.. sad state of affairs..

  49. Robert J Ennis says:

    The retired shuttles will be historical monuments to the Shuttle program and memorials to those who lost their lives in carrying out the program. Historical monuments/memorials are put in place where the history happened. The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial is in Gettysburg, PA not in Philadelphia or NYC, even though it would admittedly be easily accessible to more people in either of those locations.
    The history of the Space Shuttle Program was made at KSC and in Houston. Attributing to LA and NYC a more important role than that played by Houston is simply rewriting history after the fact. Historical revisionism is a dangerous practice, most typically practiced by totalitarian regimes (e.g. the Soviet Union, the Third Reich). The U.S. government has no business engaging in it.
    This was a political act. If the criteria for success in bringing a shuttle vehicle home to where it was designed, its development managed, its crews trained, its flights controlled, and its lost crew members mourned was to hire the right lobbist, these are inded sad times.

  50. Bill Williamson says:

    Just one last thing, FWIW.. I live and work her at KSC.. been here as long as shuttle has been around.. Florida had a very large contingent of organizations and the State going after an Orbiter, we also had detailed and approved plans to show how we it will be displayed.. We did a lot of work for over a year.. and was well published..

    But what I wanted to say to folks at JSC.. is simply that all of us here at KSC, thought for sure you would get one and deserved it.. we are all disapointed with the NASA leadership and sickened buy the politics of this administration.. I see tonight on the news that 16 Texas congressmen are fileing a petition to examine the methods used by Bolden and try to force another look at this choice..

    To have anything in NYC is a joke.. and absolute sham.. You ask any New Youk’er about manned space flight or the shuttle and they could care less, and think its a waste of money.. they always had that attitude and they feel entitled to one because they are the “Big Apple”.. and it seemed to work.. where were they when we needed the population to call their senators to protect this program.. no where..

    LA, thats another of the same old left leaning BS this country is falling into .. Ya think Polisi had anything to do with that?? Nah.. not her.. Think about it..

    I hope the Texas investigation find the facts, people loose their jobs, you get an orbiter and you guys can send the New York’ers those seats.. that would be fitting..

    Rant off..

    • Damien says:

      Is this a joke? The shuttles were assembled in California. Have you heard of the Vandenberg Air Force Base? One of the most important centers for space flight in the country during NASA’s Space Shuttle program. That’s in Southern California. Where L.A. is.

      I understand how New York would seem like a far stretch, but in reality, NASA’s already explained multiple times the methodology to the decision-making process. They spent years factoring in location appeal and persuasiveness of the proposals. That’s pretty straightforward. It is unfortunate that Houston did not receive a shuttle, considering the history of NASA and the JSC, but they came to that decision with a methodical procedure and factual basis, given that what Wayne reports about negligence and disregarding of the space program in Houston/Texas is true.
      It seems like a pretty straightforward decision to me, and not a political conspiracy.

      • waynehale says:

        California was critical to the Shuttle program but Vandenburg played only a peripheral role. I would rather have the orbiter at Palmdale where they were built than in LA but I guess more people would see it there.

  51. nooneofconsequence says:

    I am amazed. Again. At a plain spoken truth I’d grown so accustomed to for many decades. So much so I never thought I’d hear it mentioned any more. Good for you for saying it.

    But my issue is … and reading the comments here justifies it … that most won’t hear it still.

    They didn’t when it came up … before Shuttle. For the issue here predates JSC itself unfortunately. JSC’s genesis was taken as a entitlement in Texas IMHO, not as a core way by which the traditions/culture expanded in to a new frontier just as meaningful as Texas role in the expansion of the continental US, or its role in the expansion of the oil industry. Instead of a major chord, its seen as a minor riff. The first time I visited Houston I was struck by the absence of regard surrounding JSC, and that it seemed a necessary attribute to work there to have a thick enough skin or a “reality distortion field” to survive. Frankly I found that air disgusting, knowing what JSC had/would do.

    Let me cut to the chase. I don’t think this will change until all is lost. And it is missed. Then it may be noticed.

    For the outrage right now isn’t aimed in the right direction to correct the flaw unfortunately. It has nothing to do with the massive achievements of JSC, largely past ignored by most, unreconciled. When you kick the can so far down the path, one loses sight of the something that was lost at the beginning of the path. To unscrew this may take something more … like a perspective shift … that none have the patience for. For they can’t accept the greatness that makes them feel too small for them to be a part of it.

    For those that do know it – sorry – its an all or nothing thing. If the other states have their act together – why should they be handicapped in the comparison? To put together a competitive bid takes more than the belief one deserves it.

    It is not enough that you accomplish fantastic things. They must be valued for what they are broadly, not just in part. And its not just a problem in Houston or Texas.

  52. Graham says:

    I think it would’ve been good to put Enterprise in Houston because it would’ve been a natural follow-on from the Saturn V in telling the story of manned space exploration.

    Something as physically large as a space shuttle needs a really impressive presentation and enough other things to make it a tourist destination. If no-one put together a compelling plan for how Houston would do that, there’s no-one else to blame.

  53. Kari Fluegel says:

    While I appreciate you point of view to me this wasn’t about HOUSTON getting a Shuttle. This was about recognizing the men and women that have dedicated their careers, and in many cases their lives, to the Shuttle program. This should have never been a competition between cities.
    In my opinion, this is yet another slap in the face to the people of the Shuttle program, and that is something I cannot forgive.

  54. Michelle Pettit says:

    Such a debate…after the fact.

    “The retired shuttles will be historical monuments to the Shuttle program and memorials to those who lost their lives in carrying out the program. Historical monuments/memorials are put in place where the history happened.”

    True, but…

    “To put together a competitive bid takes more than the belief one deserves it.”

    “Houston didn’t want it enough. Why else would I know the plans for Seattle, Ohio and KSC better than my own city?”

    I wonder this as well. What was the plan? Where was the Orbiter supposed to be displayed? Space Center Houston? JSC? A museum somewhere in greater Houston? How was it going to be funded?

    I’ve been a part of the space program, living in Clear Lake, for 15 years. But my heart belonged to space exploration long before. The Shuttles belong to the United States of America and all it peoples. Sure. Verify the selection process. But don’t be surprised if the outcome is the same.

  55. Guy-Christopher Coppel says:

    Dear Wayne,

    I recall my first assignment as a volunteer for a NASA booth down town Houston about a decade ago. I came back home totally depressed after I realized how much people in Houston not only did not care about NASA, totally ignored what we were doing, but on top of that were perfectly at ease with it.

    PAO strategy to ‘engage’ the public was at that time based on giving away stickers and plastic bags without the smallest expectations from the public, no question asked, no attempt to tell them about what we were trying to do etc…Being in the communication business for about 20 years at the time, knowing what is the cost of a booth, the expected result per square feet when applied to a ‘commercial’ company I could not imagine, and even less accpet that could be a valid way to promote the Space Program even if our ‘product’ was ‘different’.

    So to keep my sanity, I took the chance to try to exchange my stickers against the correct answer for a simple, basic question…like “Give me the name of a space Shuttle”.

    Now, it takes some to make me feel depressed, but after I had like 95 % of answers to my simplistic question like “Apollo 13”, “Mir” beside the giggling ‘ I don’t know’ which was the majority… I tried to recover with something else, I was then showing my ‘candidates’ a large image of the ISS, asking them ” do you know what this is ?’….being certain I would raise the level of my statistic, yet feeling I was cheating a bit, because it was written on the very image….through the whole afternoon I got two correct answers over nearly 60 people I asked. One of these person was working as a contractor for the ISS Program, the other was a teacher.

    Now, this is no poll, has no statistic value, but it gave me a somber feeling, later confirmed by similar experiences through many years as a volunteer.

    Not only people did know, did not care, but JSC PAO was not really trying to address that, until I sent a couple of emails wondering what was the point of wasting tax money in bags which the amount given to the crowd was at the time displayed proudly in meetings as data showing our outreach “impact” through our booths…

    I do not know if these emails were considered for I never received any answer about it, but things slightly changed soon after. I think we are to blame too, in the fact that in the very difficult task that is to engage with the public, deliver some sort of message, make sure they get out of the booth with more than a bag, get them on board, we played sometimes very poorly (with these booths) and where please with ourselves nonetheless. Fortunately we have great speakers, great unassuming faithfuls, doing a tremendous job at sharing with the crowd, but the task is immense and we got indeed the feeling we did not have to be the ‘dirt dogs’ I think we need to be when it comes to communicate who we are and what we do.

    I agree with the reader who said that Houston does not care, but the whole country does not really care more. It is also our failure.

    Now, even if I think it is very hard for all those who worked with and for the SSP program to see this kind of decision handed to us a bit like a slap in our face, I am not sure it is the most damaging. Personally, as I said it in other venues, being the keeper of another embalmed icon of our glorious past, is not, should not be that crucial. As much as I revere our Saturn V for what it represented, it is a bitter sweet spectacle nonetheless and I feel from where we are today, that it is a stone in our shoe, a painful reminder that we somehow played defense with the Shuttle Program compared to what it might have been to follow the spirit in which we went to the Moon. And I am not sure we’ll not shrink again our ambitions….if there are any left.

    So I am not that disturbed not to have a Shuttle in Houston if it is to become more a museum of nostalgic artifacts of lost promises.

    Our real national treasure here in Houston is our people. I spent my life saying that, advocating for this to be considered beyond the lip service of any good managers praising its troops. Not with much results I am afraid.

    Too bad we have no Shuttle to highlight our efforts and pay tribute to the incredible work of our people supporting it. Tough life. I am much more concerned to see them retiring because they feel NASA has no will to use their talent anymore, out of frustration or is somehow beyond recovery without a major cultural change, like you Wayne, or because they are just let go with barely a pat in the back as we did after Apollo.

    That bothers me a great deal because what ever the next vehicle we’ll have ( assuming we’ll have one), what ever the goals which will be assigned to us, what ever the ambition we’ll have to achieve for this country, PEOPLE, not hardware, PEOPLE we’ll do it, trained professionals, with possibly, hopefully, years, decades of experience in space ops, training, planning, managing…. PEOPLE WILL DO IT, NOT MACHINES, NOT HARDWARE, even the most sophisticated and admirable ones.

    Sorry about the Shuttle not finding ‘home’ in Houston.
    We also reap what we sow. And I am afraid this is just the beginning…

    Now, if this might make some feel good, I suggest we might send a couple of our best
    Flight Controllers and /or Directors to be displayed at SCH with the following caption:

    These actual Flight Controller and Flight Director where actually used in space operations when NASA was in existence at the time human space flights were performed on a daily basis.

    Please do not touch.

  56. WDG says:

    It is easy to put the blame on the politicians. But, when we don’t have space shuttle program managers and the head of NASA (a shuttle veteran and Houston resident) fighting and leading the charge for JSC to get a shuttle then this post becomes true in of itself – that some of us do not care anymore.
    As a fellow Rice and JSC alum, others do care. I do wish we had received a shuttle, but I thought, as many others, that leaders were doing their best. Obviously not.

    What really bothers me is the foot traffic argument – the Intrepid is just hours from the Smithsonian. The same visitors going to the Intrepid are probably the same ones going to the Smithsonian. Any good trade study would have taken into account “access” to view an Orbiter and analyze distribution and frequency of the visitors. I would not have been as bothered if one of the shuttles went to a more central location in the United States to provide more people a viewing opportunity.

  57. Jason says:

    When was the last time the astronaut office visited LaMarque? Galveston Ball High? Texas City? With our Digital Learning Network – which school districts utilize our resources to speak with engineers working on the Shuttle through video conferencing? On NASA Road 1 – how many launch parties occur at local restaraunts? How about the countless other entities around the area? We routinely loft a 10 story structure on 7 million pounds of thrust with cargo the size of a school bus ferrying 7 fearless astronauts building an international outpost for research and peace. All this for less than 1% of OUR federal dollars. People are not informed. We do not have the pride we once had for reasons unknown.
    The problem is – you can take a guy like Sir Richard Branson – who lofts a vehicle up no bigger than a kite (relatively speaking – no offense to the Private Sector)- for personal profit – and he’s the toast of the town. It’s ridiculous when one compares the two. There is no comparison. But, companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Bigelow are doing what we’ve never been allowed to do – or simply refuse – and that’s PROMOTION. They get out and speak to anyone that will listen. EVERYONE.
    While I’m saddened JSC won’t get a Shuttle – I look at the optimistic side and hopefully others around this great country will see and benefit from our work. Maybe they will understand once they see it in person – the engineering fetes we routinely acheive….2 million moving parts is nothing to sneeze at!
    This all coming from a guy who long ago worked in the media and dreamt of the things in the sky. Who, today – is nothing more than a technician waiting to get laid off wondering how he might support his family. But, we’re dreamers. We’re innovators. And, for OUR survival as an industry – we need to be better communicators…..to a public that really doesn’t know us anymore. Remember – we were SpaceX long before it was cool to be SpaceX – and our record demonstrates this time and time again. We are timeless….priceless – and as the article so eloquently states – we’ll be gone if we don’t make this “connection” again to the American public.
    GREAT ARTICLE Mr. Hale….thanks for your service!

    • waynehale says:

      All of the astronauts I know participate in many many many educational events throughout the year. As a NASA civil servant, I (and many others) regularly visited schools to talk to young students. I am sure that the crew office can give you the exact statistics on when each of the schools you mentioned has been the recipient of an astronaut appearance.

      • Jason says:

        That would be great! I would love to see when LaMarque, Texas City or Galveston has been visited by the astronaut office. I’m sure it must be an oversight – but would love to see and hear more about it….for these particular schools so close to NASA. Thanks!

  58. Canine says:

    I’m not impressed by the way that Hale, when caught, just blows off his factual errors (and his critics) after using them as key supporting points to his assertion that people in Texas care nothing about NASA or JSC.

    It’s documented that both Perry and Bush came to JSC.

    • waynehale says:

      George H. W. Bush is a great space supporter and has been to JSC many times, as President, and before and afterwards. His son George W. Bush came to JSC exactly once which was for the Columbia Memorial service. I missed the fact that Rick Perry made a campaign stop at JSC in 2005 (six years ago). I don’t think that error makes my premise incorrect, but you may be right, and therefore my whole thought may be wrong. I did not intend to blow off the correction.

  59. Andrew Peng says:

    As a new aerospace graduate, I moved to Houston to explore new opportunities in the space research field. However, now it seems like with the budget cuts, contract cuts, and a general lack of interest not only in Houston, but in America overall, it looks like I will need to leave the country and go to Russia or China to gain new knowledge and remain competitive in the field.

    As the prior forerunners of space technology, it’s extremely depressing to see that not even Houston has the interest or energy to contribute towards America’s space program. Driving around the Webster / Clear Lake area now shows us that the area is a shell of what it used to be. Things just aren’t the same as the 70’s when the area was an up and coming bustling busy city of research and innovation. The area now is stagnant with abandoned buildings, cracking and peeling murals on walls, and leftover relics from a bygone era.

    Our recent economic stumble has forced our leadership to reorgonize and reprioritize our nation’s already paltry budget, but consider this. Just a few decades ago, NASA was awarded about 5% of the national budget. A few years ago, NASA got 1/2 of 1 percent (0.5%) of the national budget. To anyone, this is too extreme of a budget cut and is going to push our space industry to other countries that are willing to spend more resources on an exciting and one of two great frontiers.

  60. Robert Riberia says:

    As an American citizen and long time follower of the space program I deeply appreciate all of the hard work and dedication that the workers at KSC and Houston have put into the Shuttle program. I have an enormous amount of admiration and respect for what you have done over the past 30 years.

    That said, I think that everyone needs to realize that the orbiters belong to the American people, who funded their construction and operation with hard earned tax dollars. My votes over the past 30 years have always been strongly based on the candidate’s space policy so that America can continue to fly the shuttles. No single group of individuals is “entitled” to such a national treasure. At a time when the future of manned spaceflight is in a state of flux we need to, more than ever, inspire and educate the youth of today, along with the American taxpayer, on the wonders of manned spaceflight. Locating the orbiters in major population centers on both sides of the county will afford them maximum visibility.

    Look at the long range here. Generating interest in a robust and healthy manned space program will do marvelous things for Houston, far more than the generation of a few extra tourism dollars because of a new museum exhibit.

    Thank you for all you’ve done for the shuttle program Houston, but let us share in the marvel that you have had the privilege of flying for the past 30 years.

  61. Misha says:


    Not to disagree with your point (Houston/JSC did not do enough), but you cannot put the disconnect between the city and Nasa purely on Houston residents. I came to the US from Russia, where spaceflight is revered. Visiting space museums in Moscow was an exhilarating experience, full of history and grandeur that made me want to learn more. I became an avid science fiction fan and remain interested in space to this day.

    In contrast, my visit to the Space Center was underwhelming. Most of the exhibits feel like they belong in the Children’s Museum and I could never find much to be excited about. I was part of the technology crew that broadcast the first shuttle launch on the Internet and later did first Internet broadcasts of interviews with of astronauts from JSC. In all of my time there around Space Center I couldn’t get over how poorly the space was maintained and how much gravitas and sense of history was missing from the exhibits.

    I want Houston to identify with JSC much more than it does, but the responsibility for connecting with the community has to begin and end with NASA.

  62. Dave says:

    What did New York or Los Angeles do to earn orbiters??? I can understand that they have economic and demographic arguments….. But certainly not the emotional argument…. There is yet another orbiter to be claimed. Columbia deserves to come home to Houston. And perhaps some healing will come with it. It’s time for Columbia to come home to it’s final resting place.

    • JonathanWalters says:

      All six shuttles were built just outside Los Angeles in Palmdale. Los Angeles actually would technically have more of a direct connection to the Space Shuttle than Houston as the shuttles were never physically connected to Houston, only operationally through missions.

      • Dave says:

        “only operationally through missions…”

        And the hundreds of Houston residents who flew and lived in them, the thousands of Houston residents who designed and operated them, and the millions of miles they were “operated” through from Houston.

        Building them is indeed an accomplishment. I did not mean to diminish that fact. I just wanted to reiterate the emotional connection.

      • Michele says:

        Well said Dave!

  63. Bob Mahoney says:

    Greetings, Mr. Hale. I need to ask (if only to ensure proper etiquette in the future) if you intentionally excised my comment (submitted yesterday I think) or did it not register properly? And if you tromped on it, may I ask why? Feel free to contact me at my email address as this hardly merits a public exchange.

    Thanks. I did like your assessment, but I still think politics was involved…like it always is.

    • waynehale says:

      I have been overrun with comments. I am trying very hard to post comments that (1) stay on topic, (2) are not filled with profanity or other inappropriate remarks, (3) are shorter than the original blog post, and (4) are not clearly partisan political. That is why not everyones comment has been posted.

      • Dave H. says:


        While I agree with reasons 2,3,and 4, I disagree with your thoughts about going “off-topic”.

        Throughout my 33 year career in industrial instrumentation and controls, it’s been my experience time and again that those “off-topic” tidbits come in handy later on.

        For instance…have you ever heard of Karen and Richard Carpenter? No, they’re not related to Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter, but by accident during a Google search for something else I learned that their mother, Agnes, had once worked at the aerospace plant in Downey, CA where the Apollo and early STS components were manufactured.

        Just to be sure, I asked Richard himself, and he confirmed this to be true. Unfortunately, she didn’t bring home any memorabilia from those days, no photos from a chance meeting with Scott.

        Did you know that the Carpenters contributed the final “wake-up” song of the Apollo program? I would love to be able to hear or watch film of “We’ve Only Just Begun” from that day, but it’s nowhere to be found.

        So yes, it may be off the original topic, and even off the beaten path, but it does add to the sum total of knowledge.

        Give me search-engine overload anytime!

  64. Astrodomus says:

    What if Houstonians tried to host a Shuttle at Houston’s Astrodome, instead? I’ve read that NYC’s Shuttle winner attracts a million visitors per year, whereas NASA JSC way down in Clear Lake, Texas attracts 750,000. The Astrodome (in contrast) is on Houston’s light rail system, which isn’t that inaccessible from the airport. By hosting a Shuttle at the currently vacant Astrodome, the argument for giving it to NYC would seemingly be overcome. And Houston would finally get some space-related attention that’s currently concentrated way down in Clear Lake, to which there’s no light rail but loads of traffic congestion. Why not spread the wealth to Central Houston? Couldn’t that in turn boost support for NASA?

    • Michelle Pettit says:

      If wishes were horses…I’d like to see at least one orbiter tour the country before it reaches it’s final home.

  65. GH says:


    You may be in a position to know since you were a senior JSC manager, and then in Space Ops being in a leadership position for strategic communications, did NASA or JSC invite any of these state and local politicians in to JSC to meet, greet, or participate in any activities, and did they all turn us down?; or was this something that should have been thought up and initiated by those individuals rather than by NASA or JSC?

    From what I have seen, during the annual JSC open houses there is a tremendous outpouring of people and sincere interest from the community. I suspect the numbers are in the tens and maybe hundreds of thousands.

    I know I tried, in an unofficial capacity, to initiate a community space support activity. While JSC center operations and security were supportive, the JSC Director of Public Affairs refused any support. Space Center Houston agreed to support initially, but when they saw we could fill their IMAX theater, they then asked that we pay a rental fee of thousands of dollars for each evening’s use. University of Houston Clear Lake then provided support at no cost.

    The effort to rally the community behind JSC getting an Orbiter seemed to be a very late, last ditch, grass roots effort. Where were the JSC center, public affairs, Shuttle program, and space ops management in this process? I keep looking to our selected, appointed and paid NASA management for leadership. Did they all think it was someone else’s job?

    Yes you might be right, maybe we didn’t deserve it, but I suspect the issue starts a lot closer to home.

  66. Phil A says:

    NASA has a long and quiet road ahead. Programs wither and die in transition stages like this. NASA must maintain, nay, it must maximize it’s public visibility. The selected sites do exactly that. What is better for the program, a shuttle in New York, or one in Houston?

    I don’t know, maybe JSC gets the same number of visitors as the museum in New York. My hunch is that they don’t, not by a factor of 100 or 1,000.

    Stop worrying about artifacts, and start worrying about how NASA is perceived by the common man. Most people see no use for NASA after Apollo. Seriously. Get out of NASA gravity holes and ask some people in Wyoming or New Hampshire where the shuttle is controlled from; ask them what NASA has done for them lately.

    I’m a NASA nut. I grew up close (like bike-ride close) to Ames Research. I took time off from work to watch shuttle/space station status reports, that’s how I know about Wayne Hale in the first place. Let’s not worry too much about artifacts. Let’s build a NASA that taxpayers and the world will be proud of.

  67. Michele says:


    I agree with your the majority of your post. I just it is sad that the people who worked so hard and for so many years, are only getting two seats. My husband worked for NASA for over 20 years. He has always respected and admired you. In fact I suspect that he whole-heartedly agrees with you. Where I disagree is that this was caused from the lack luster response response of Houstonians and those that worked for the Space Shuttle program.

    I agree that there is nothing special about the JSC physically. I have never been that impressed, but is not my husband’s fault or those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for NASA in the furtherance of Space Exploration. This comes directly from the directors and higher ups at NASA. My husband works for a subcontractor, which supports Mission Control and the SSP. He has done the shift changes mostly without complaint even when he has had to work an 8-hour day and then come back that night to work the mid-shift. I believe that my husband could count the number of times he has been complemented on a job well done on one hand and he has worked there over 20 years, but that is not the case when it came to making him feel inadequate and many times he resented working there. This is certainly not directed to you, Mr. Hale in any way. But the ones that were directly over his department did an absolute poor job of making them feel appreciated and giving them a sense of pride in the space program. I think there was definitely a sense of entitlement, and rightly so for all of the poor management that they dealt with day in and day out. This just only scratches the surface when I think about what a slap in the face this is to those remaining family members of the astronauts who gave their lives.

    I have read many responses regarding how poorly JSC was upkept and how much of a disappointment it was. Houston was the step-child even though it was the heart of the space program. Do you think that KSC was treated like a step-child? It takes money to keep up the facilities. From what I have heard, KSC is one of the best centers in America, but I am sure they have also had much more funding than Houston, not taking into consideration the cost of the launch pads, the cost to launch, fuel, etc. Taking all of these factors out of the equation and I believe that you would still see a very unbalanced budget. I do not mean to detract from KSC and the people there at all. It’s just easier to appreciate something, when you feel appreciated! John L. “Jack” Swigert said it best “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” This quote has been misquoted for many years, as “Houston, we HAVE a problem” , but unfortunately we still do.

  68. Dave "The Right Stuff" says:


    Respectfully, I completely disagree with you.

    When the Shuttle Program ends, Houston deserves a Space Shuttle! The reasons are obvious, and do not need to be re-stated. And, political minipulation such as gettting politicains to send letters or make phone calls to Charlie Bolden or President Obama should NOT be a deciding factor. Houston should have received Endeavour, and LA should have received Enterpirse; in addition to Atlantis going to KSC and Discovery to the Smithsonian.

    Since I was not on the selection committee and overturning this decision will be almost impossible, I have a different suggestion. JSC’s success with designing the incredible Space Shuttle produced a cold war copy in the form of the former Soviet Buran. The one Buran that flew (once and un-manned) is rotting outside. Why not have all of the politicians and people who are outraged by this travesty to start an effort to bring the Buran to Houston! I would defintiely love to see that Bird!



    • Calli Arcale says:

      This is much belated, but I need to correct you, Dave. The one Buran that flew in space was not stored outdoors. It was stored in its assembly hall (originally built for the N-1) at Baikonur Cosmodrome, in hopes of eventually resurrecting the program. Those hopes finally died a few years ago when the roof of the assembly hall collapsed, killing several workers and crushing the remaining Energia-Buran hardware. The Buran that was displayed outdoors was a structural test article, I believe (broadly analogous to Pathfinder on the STS program). There was also a jet-powered Buran used for approach and landing tests (the equivalent of Enterprise, though Enterprise was actually closer to being spaceworthy); not sure where that is now. Of course, one piece of the Buran program has become very successful — the An-224 “Mriya” is enjoying a successful career as the world’s biggest cargo plane. I wonder what will become of the surviving SCA after it has delivered the Orbiters to their final destinations. Its buddy has already moved to Dryden to serve as spare parts for SOFIA.

  69. Shuttle contractor for 2 decades says:

    Wayne might be spot on when it comes to Houston being a little blase about the space program and astronauts but we have had them based here for so long…I imagine the people in LA are blase about Hollywood icons, and the people in DC are blase about motorcades and the sorry excuses for politicians that might pop up at their local diner…..just because we are “accustomed” to seeing an astronaut shouldn’t warrant the fact that JSC was preeminent in bringing outerspace to the world….

  70. Greg Schroder says:

    Well said, Wayne. And most of the replies are very thoughtful, too. A lot of them seem to point out to me the biggest flaw we have with NASA: it never seems to financially justify itself to the population in clear terms.

    Ask someone why we should keep our manned space program and you’re likely to get the answer, “Because! Why? Because, ummmmm, well – they invented Velcro!” Obviously the economical and societal benefits from NASA and our space exploration amount to far, far more than Velcro, but I’ve yet to meet anyone or see anything that explains that in inarguable language.

    When the cancellation of Constellation was announced, radio host Chris Baker dedicated a show to “Why should we keep NASA?” He is a big proponent of our space program, but admitted that he couldn’t defend it against those that wanted to end it. He couldn’t explain its worth, so he asked his listeners to help him out. No one I heard could, including a fairly well-known former flight director who called in.

    It would be great if NASA had a cut sheet or index card that showed the return on the taxpayer’s investment. This return should be in dollars and as tangible as possible. Maybe that tool already exists; if so, it needs to get out there. If it doesn’t exist, someone needs to create it and pronto. And it should be required memorization for all involved in our space program, as well as for those of us who support it.

  71. Scott St john says:

    Will JSC have that much to do in the next few years anyway? with the commerical boys running their own programs like SpaceX will be running their Dragon from California and the others from where ever they are from, will there be a need for Mission Control in Houston, until NASA builds the big heavy lifter to go to a big rock when one gets close enough because our President cancelled the Moon program. Off on a tangent, did you know that our guys were only in the LEMs on the lunar surface for 12 days, with all of the moonwalks added together it is only three and a half days being outside doing research. That would be like coming to the New World in a Jon boat and walking around for a couple of miles and saying “Heck, there ain’t nothing here” and rowing back to the mother ship. What a waist.

  72. Shelley says:

    I agree with some of your comments, but I’m pretty sure that governor Perry visited JSC when I was cooping there… long after 1995. I’m not 100% sure, but fairly certain enough to make me wonder if you checked on that fact.

    And Houston doesn’t deserve a shuttle… but the people of JSC do. They gave their lives to that program (some quite literally) and they deserve to have that piece of history. Not just for those families of Columbia and Challenger, but for every single person who makes human space flight possible. For every person who skipped having Christmas with their children so they could work Mission Control and land those astronauts safely. They deserve the shuttle.

  73. Jim Nobles says:

    I don’t totally agree with the placement of the shuttles (I would have sent Enterprise to Dayton) but I am pretty sickened about the attitude of some of the people posting here. Neither Houston or any other city is entitled to an orbiter. The orbiters are the property of the United States’ taxpayers and should be placed where those taxpayers interested in seeing them can most easily get to them. End of story.

    But I think something else even more important is being missed here. This may just be the first sign of things to come. Commercial Space is coming, and those boys are hungry. They intend to eat your lunch and come back later and haul off the refrigerator. They actually believe in human spaceflight and believe that a) they are the ones best suited to get it done and b) places like JSC are little more than pork factories established by politicians. Let’s face it, there’s no good reason to have a NASA Space Center in Houston other than the fact that there’s already one there. And the only reason it’s there is because of LBJ.

    So if you are really interested in staying involved with the space program you better quit your whining and get your heads back into the game. You don’t have any launch facilities and few space hardware construction facilities and those you do have can easily be relocated. If you want to stay in this game you better learn how to produce things that are relevant to the future in space. Or you may be left totally out of it. Wake up.

  74. mooncollector says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Hale on this also.

    Many people in Houston have expended much of their lives in support of the Shuttle program and deserve more than 2 seats. Just because they are not rah-rah-sis-boom-bah about what they do (who really is about ANY “job”?) does not mean they deserve this slight.

    The Northeast has had a slam-dunk on a Shuttle location in the Smithsonian since Day One. KSC was also a “Given” (Like JSC SHOULD have been, in a perfect world absent politics) so for the best, most equitable distribution of these national treasures, a West Coast location and a Midwest/Heartland- accessible location would have been the 2 other choices that made sense. It is symptomatic of the sneering contempt some circles have about “Flyover Country” that no Shuttle will be located within 1500 miles of a large percentage of our Nation’s population. While Northeasterners get TWO.

    Houston, you have a BIG problem… the handwriting is on the wall. There is such a terrible anti-Texas bias in the country today that it would not surprise me, given the politics holding sway at this time, that you lose more than just a Shuttle. Given a chance to do so (re-election), you-know-who may just shut down JSC altogether and move all command/control functions in NASA to a more “expedient” (politically supportive) location. Are you ready some day for “(New York/Chicago/LA) , Meridiani Base here…”

    I hope “y’all” roll up your sleeves and FIGHT like Texans have historically done, when faced with injustice.

  75. Mike Smith says:

    I guess what Houston did was just not enough for you Wayne

    “Houston had waged a two-year campaign to land an orbiter, including gathering more than 90,000 letters of support. Families of astronauts killed in the Challenger and Columbia disasters also met with Bolden to urge him to select Houston. During the competition, Texas lawmakers signed a letter saying that denying Houston a shuttle would “forever diminish the service” rendered by the city in the space program and “create a blemish on its significance to the legacy of NASA.”

    The California Science Center, by contrast, mounted a low-key effort that emphasized its 1.4 million annual visitors and estimates that nearly 2 million a year would visit the shuttle.

    Some are wondering whether Houston might still have a shot at a shuttle if the cities selected have trouble raising the money to pay NASA’s $28.8 million price to decontaminate and transport each orbiter and the millions more to build a facility to house one.

    Houston Mayor Annise Parker wasn’t optimistic that Houston could change NASA’s decision.

    She said at a news conference this week that if Bolden “could overlook the history of human spaceflight here in Houston, if he could overlook the fact that we have been the home to the astronaut corps since its beginning, if he could overlook the fact that the memorial services for the Challenger and Columbia disasters were here … I don’t know what else we can do to convince him.”

    Houston, as a consolation prize, will receive flight deck pilot and commander seats for display. ”

    Why do you hate the people you live and work around. All they have done is make manned space flight possible.

    • waynehale says:

      I think you and I have a misunderstanding. I admire my co-workers in Houston. We just cannot take JSC for granted. Work is required to keep it from fading away.

  76. Ymilla says:

    OK. Enough said about why and who is to blame. What can we do now? Is it too late? I am ready to march or hold a mass public display at JSC if it will do any good. Is it too late to get a shuttle? I hope it is not too late. I for one, was shocked when we didn’t get one. I automatically assumed that sending a shuttle to JSP was a no-brainer. I was wrong.

    I may not be as articulate but I would love to attempt bringing the people pf Texas together and seeing if we can make something happen here. I am tired of relying on politicians and think this should be a lesson to all Americans on all issues. We cant rely on politicians, sometimes we have to get off our…couch, stop barbecuing for one weekend at least and do something for our country! Who’s in!?!

  77. Robert Howard says:


    Like everyone said you are right on target. It is sad that the disposition of the shuttles was decided by a pseudo-political/marketing campaign. And it is sad that we have mismanaged public relations to the point of becoming near-invisible in our own city, Channel 39’s daily lament about the shuttle notwithstanding. And as much of a tragedy as that is in its own right, there is yet another.

    To me, we only have five shuttles. (I am counting Pathfinder, the mockup vehicle in Huntsville, as a shuttle because once these orbiters are “stuffed and mounted” it will require an expert to differentiate between the real ones and the mockup. Yes, every rocket scientist from Huntsville is crying that Pathfinder is easy to spot because it doesn’t have a real heat shield…proving my point. I think you could stick it in New York instead of Enterprise and hardly anyone would be the wiser.) That leads to my point of what was not part of the selection process but should have been.

    When the Constellation program was started and the program decided that we would be using a capsule-type spacecraft, my office at JSC promptly contacted Space Center Houston and asked them to open up the Apollo 17 Command Module (before opening hours) for us to come over and study. We crawled all around that capsule, taking measurements, notes, and photographs. They put us on a lift platform and raised us up to the lunar lander hanging from the ceiling and a couple times (until they decided it wasn’t safe) climed aboard and took photos and measurements of its interior. We also reached into the Mercury and Gemini capsules to take photos and measurements, too and did the same in the Skylab training mockup. Of course we also did the same onsite in Building 9 with the shuttle, Soyuz, and ISS mockups. We needed to study these spaceships because we were too young to have ever designed a spaceship before. All of this stuff was library books and Discovery specials. Sure, Space Center Houston is primary a public museum, but for us it became an engineering archive center, for us to educate ourselves on all of the design experience of a generation before. That is why a shuttle should be retained in Houston, so that during the next spacecraft design effort the current crowd of engineers can study it and learn what you can never gain from reading a report or looking at a CAD model on a computer screen. Sometimes you have to actually touch and study and climb inside hardware to understand a design decision. Part of the decision should have been where are the shuttles most accessible for design studies by future spacecraft engineers.

    At least we can study two shuttle flight deck chairs. Yes, lots of hardware lessons learned we can glean from those chairs for the next vehicle.

  78. Here in Florida everyone is blaming Obama for cancelling the Shuttle program. From your blog it appears that it was too late by 2008. But Augustine included a Shuttle extension as a minor option, 4B. Any idea what the Obama administration was told by NASA as to whether the Shuttle could have been extended? I was amazed how smoothly the last few flows went despite the problem with the stringers, and I really think the bugs were finally worked out of it. I think it could easily have flown another ten years. I also wonder what you think about the reasons the cost of Shuttle operations were so high, and whether they could be avoided in a new reusable.

  79. Pingback: Quora

    • waynehale says:

      I disagree with this notion. I believe that Houston felt we deserved an orbiter and just didn’t make the effort necessary to get one. The problem is ourselves, not Washington.

  80. Steve H. says:

    Let’s not forget Houston’s excellent track record when it came to caring for and maintaining their historic Apollo Saturn V rocket, which was left out in the rain for decades to rot and become a home for migratory birds. Shameful!

    • Rob@KSC says:

      The same was true for a Saturn V test vehicle that was on display outside of the VAB at KSC exposed to rain, hurricanes and salt air between at least 1976 (was in place for the US Bicentennial celebration) to 1996 whan the new display center was opened. As a KSC contractor employee since 1990 I, like may others at KSC was shocked to hear JSC would not get an orbiter. As an SFA award recipient in 2000 I traveled to JSC for a tour of the center. We didn’t get out in town much but the pride and compassion of the JSC workforce for the shuttle program was very evident. Like many of the respondants to this issue I too believe at least some part of the decision was politically based.

  81. Claxton says:

    Wayne, I’ll make a case for one other city that I think would’ve deserved an orbiter if they had put forth a campaign to get one – New Orleans. Considering that the shuttle’s ET was assembled there (at Michoud) and the engines were tested up the road at Stennis, I think New Orleans would’ve been a good place for a shuttle.

  82. Misty says:

    yeah for California! Texas is an entitlement state altogether – We deserve everything because “we’re Texas” Get real. I can not wait to get the heck outta this place and back to California :))

    • waynehale says:

      Sorry you feel that way. I have found that most Texans are fiercely independent and proud of individual accomplishments.
      BTW, I like California, too. Hope you find what you want there.

  83. RLB says:

    Houston may actually be the winner, after all. They are getting a space shuttle, albeit a mockup, with real and not real parts. The are now and have been retrofitting the interior to true realty and real 747 space shuttle carrier on top of which will be docked the “shuttle.”

    More importantly, however, is that it will be the only shuttle, along with the 747 that visitors will walk, crawl and pass through as we’ll as touch any parts of the inside.

    Yes, Houston and Texas did what they are so famous far, at times–rested on their laurels, simply assuming it’s a lock-in as was the Smithsonian. That was the only true given, and possibly the KSC innFlorida. But, NYC? Give me a break.

    In fact, as our fearless leader and President hate Texas and Houston so much, except when he needs money or votes for a socialistic bill passed, he probably ordered Gen. Bolden yo lie, hide facts and do anything possible to ensure Houston is snubbed. His hatred for the Bushes I am sure play a big role in Hating Houston, Dallas, and Texas.

    So,what looked bad two years ago, may have some sunshine peeking through the clouds. It may be a small consolation prize for a great city, but one bigger in the long run.

    Now if Houston ever decides to run for an Olympics, if Dallas runs and again is knocked out in around One, would get behind Houston rather than continuing to be against Houston, similar to hoe the whole Southeast part of the country supported Atlanta–or even vice-versa–Texas will be the winner along with the winning city.

    • waynehale says:

      I’m pretty certain that President Obama did not affect the selections. So I disagree with that part of your comment

      Secondly, the plywood shuttle mockup that was moved from the KSC visitor center to JSC contains zero “real” shuttle parts. I would deem it a “low fidelity” mockup. It is true that tourists will go inside based on the current plans but speaking from personal experience having gone inside that mockup several times when it was in Florida, that was a very underwhelming experience.

      As to bringing the summer Olympics to Houston, the mind boggles at the thought of what our August weather would do to the outdoor events.

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