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Shuttle To Adler?

By Marcus Gilmer in News on May 20, 2010 2:20PM

With NASA about to retire three space shuttles from its fleet - Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour - the task of what happens to them next has come up. One possibility includes one of those shuttles winding up on Chicago's Lakefront as part of a new exhibit at the Adler Planetarium. According to the Adler's president, Paul Knappenberger, the planetarium is on a list of 21 museums that are competing to receive one of the shuttles once they're officially decommissioned. Atlantis is on its final flight now while Discovery finishes up in September and Endeavour in November (though the Discovery shuttle has been promised to the Smithsonian).

The catch? Besides competing against several other more well-known and space-centric museums - such as the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama - is the price. NASA says it will cost at least $28.8 million to get the shuttle to each final destination and that's what it's requiring interested parties to raise. But reps for the Museum of Science and Industry, who took a pass at this opportunity, estimated it would cost much more than that.

"To make this another world-class, hands-on MSI exhibit would require $80 million plus to do it right," the museum said in an e-mail response to questions from the Tribune.

The museum also wrote: "It would require a significant amount of new indoor space that the museum would have to have custom built. The space would need to be a minimum of 20,000-square-feet, climate-controlled and replete with hi-tech interactive experiences ... and would take several years to design and build."

Knappenberger says the shuttle would be housed in a new exhibit which is currently a parking lot south of the planetarium, a fitting location close to the so-called spaceship that is the renovated Soldier Field.