This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
NASA will be passing out space shuttles in a year or two. We want one.
By “we,” we mean the Pacific Northwest, a region whose fortunes have been tied to aerospace since William Boeing launched his Model 1 seaplane in 1916.
The Museum of Flight at Boeing Field – which displays more than 80 fascinating and historically significant aircraft – is one of the nation’s great showcases of aviation. As it phases out the shuttle program, NASA is looking for homes for the Atlantis, Enterprise and Endeavour. This is a marriage made in the heavens.
The Museum of Flight would be the perfect berth for one of those monumental spacecraft. It meets all of NASA’s requirements:
• A 10,000-foot runway, long enough to land the 747 that would piggyback the shuttle to its honorable retirement.
• A grand display case – the $12 million Space Gallery, which the museum has already broken ground on.
• Proximity to a major metropolitan area – the central Puget Sound region.
• Affiliation with the Smithsonian and accreditation by the American Association of Museums.
• Potential to become a center of scientific education for K-12 children.
This last qualification bears emphasis. The Museum of Flight is already a magnet for children and youth. It is also the future location of a public academy, Aviation High School, which specializes in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – education.
Part of the Highline School District and currently located in temporary quarters, Aviation High School attracts students from many communities – and graduates 98 percent of them. The plan is to give it a permanent home on the Museum of Flight campus, right next to the museum’s gallery of historic aircraft.
It would be hardly possible to create a closer partnership between the space shuttle and STEM education.
Competition for the three surplus shuttles is intense. The Museum of Flight’s rivals include Houston’s Johnson Space Center, Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and the Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio.
The Museum of Flight isn’t a long shot, though, especially with its education component and Space Gallery. And if excitement about all things aerospace if a factor, NASA need look no farther than the greater Seattle area.
How many other claimants, after all, already have a Space Needle?