Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Houston doesn't get a retired space shuttle. Wow.

The very first word uttered from the moon was "Houston."

Mission control is in Houston. Many astronauts (probably most of them) call Houston home either now or at some point in the past, including those who died in the shuttle explosions.

Houston is Space City. Oprah has big love for Houston. Houston's sports teams even use space themes in their names and in their marketing.

Maybe that last example wasn't a good one, but if you don't live here, you probably don't realize how surprising today's decision to send all the retired shuttles to different cities was to most Houston residents.

I have to admit, I figured if there were three or four retired shuttles going to different cities, Houston would most likely get one of them for historical reasons.

I guess the thing to consider is that NASA is a federal agency, and Houston already has the Johnson Space Center. Sending the retired shuttles elsewhere allows NASA to share examples of the national space program in other parts of the country. That seems fair.

Houston mayor Annise Parker declared from a podium at city hall recently that "NASA is ours." That's the way many Houstonians feel, but isn't actually correct. Tell all the NASA employees in Florida that the agency belongs to the city of Houston, and they might be inclined to disagree.

Someone apparently thought those retired shuttles belonged not to the city of Houston, but to the American people in general.

The local politicians will undoubtedly come out with statements expressing shock and disbelief. They'll say things like "It is clear" and "It is unfortunate" (both of which are not true) to express their personal frustration that these amazing pieces of local history are going elsewhere on their watch.

However, look on the bright side. As of today, Houston still has the Johnson Space Center, Mission Control and that big rocket on Nasa Road One.

"We have ignition," says the Houston Rockets. They just don't have a space shuttle.

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