Friday, August 26, 2011

How Houston Could Get Two Shuttles, And Save the Astrodome

Like most Houstonians, I’m angry that Houston did not get a Space Shuttle. We could debate the reasons. I think it was monument snobbery: the view that the Shuttles just have to be in our Nation’s signature cities, and that Houston simply won’t do. NASA’s official reason for denying us a Shuttle – that we allegedly don’t get enough international visitors – could be seen as a veiled admission of it. But instead of lamenting our loss, we should come together in search of another option.

What if Houston was home to a large monument and museum commemorating the Challenger and Columbia Shuttles? We’ve got the perfect building to use for it: the Astrodome. The Astrodome is big enough to house the museum, monument, and also replicas of the Shuttles. Imagine two Shuttles, suspended in the Dome – with glass walkways leading up to them so that visitors can peer in. None of the other Shuttle museums will have anything like it.

The replicas of the Challenger and Columbia could be accurate to the condition the Shuttles were in before they were lost. Visitors could see how technology advanced between 1986 and 2003. The Saturn 5 Rocket and other exhibits from the Johnson Space Center could also be relocated to the Astrodome. There could be an I-Max Theater, along with new exhibits and memorials commemorating the crews of the two lost Shuttle missions. One exhibit could be devoted to the Astrodome and all of the other Houston institutions that owe their names to our Space Program.

Houston has bigger ties to our National Space Program than any other City. It is ridiculous that we didn’t get a Shuttle. But we shouldn’t be bitter about it. We should look for another option. The Eighth Wonder of the World would be a fitting monument to the Challenger and Columbia Shuttles.

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