NASA’s Office of Inspector General Issues Report on Why/How Certain Museums Were Selected to Receive Retired Space Shuttles

Remember back at the start of the year when it seemed liked every science museum in the country was vying to get NASA to give them one of the four Space Shuttles the government agency was retiring? The campaigning to get one had reached a fever pitch by April, eventually all culminating with NASA’s live webcast where they announced the winners (the National Air and Space Museum got the Discovery, the Enterprise will make the move from the Air and Space to the Intrepid Museum in New York, with the remaining two shuttles will go to the Kennedy Space Center and the California Science Center in Los Angeles). Some of the other serious contenders, like the Museum of Flight in Seattle and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago wound up getting smaller consolation-esque prizes, like shuttle flight simulators. Now months later, with the joy and disappointment settled among the respective museums, NASA’s Office of Inspector General has released its full overview of where everything went and how each institution was selected. It’s a dense, 27 page document, but if you have the time, well worth the read to understand how much back and forth goes into a decision like this (there are three pages alone about picking the date to announce when they’d make an announcement). In the end, the report finds that while “agency staff made several errors during the evaluation process of prospective Orbiter recipients,” ultimately “NASA complied with federal law and was not improperly influenced by political considerations.” Perhaps most interesting among those “errors”, the report finds that NASA “did not provide applicants with all the information that would have been helpful to formulate realistic plans”; information such as that there was a 19-ton and $20 million difference between two of the shuttles, something a competing museum probably would have liked knowing about when submitting a proposal.