Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum keen to purchase NASA space shuttle

Soon to exhibit a space shuttle? Image: Rob Young/Flickr.

The stalwart space shuttle fleet has just four remaining missions separating it from official retirement, which is expected to come into effect before the end of 2010. Once removed from service, NASA's aging orbiters will likely become tourist attractions after they're individually sold to suitably wealth and befitting bidders, one of which could well be the city of New York.

More pointedly, city officials are reportedly interested in bringing one of the groundbreaking space shuttles to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – itself something of an eye-catching spectacle on the New York skyline thanks to its location in Manhattan aboard the permanently docked aircraft carrier USS Intrepid.

“I can think of no better place to showcase the space program and America's innovation to the world than New York,” exclaimed the city's Democratic representative Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “As America's most cosmopolitan city, New York would be the perfect venue to display this iconic spacecraft.”

In order to draw further support for its acquisition bid, the Intrepid Museum has launched an online campaign seeking the signatures of those who believe a space shuttle homed in New York is a great idea. The museum's official site presently has more than 25,000 signatures and is also running a news feature regarding the pledged support of Democratic New York senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer.

To secure a space shuttle for inclusion aboard the USS Intrepid, the city will need to meet NASA's per-vehicle asking price of $28.2 million USD. However, that's a fee museum officials belief will be swiftly offset by around 50 million tourist visits each year, the generation of up to $71 million USD per year in direct spending for the city, and a total of $106 million USD per year in new economic activity. 

Beyond offering wide-ranging commercial and military exhibits such as the British Airways Concorde, the USS Growler submarine and an F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Intrepid Museum also includes a replica of NASA's Aurora 7 space capsule, which was part of the Mercury program in the 1960s.

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