For the first time ever, America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will make artifacts from its shuttle missions and space programs, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, available to institutions other than Federal Agencies.
The 30-year-old space shuttle program ends in 2010 after a few more missions, including the next launch of the Endeavour, scheduled February 7 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will deliver the Italian-built Tranquility control room for robotics to the space station.
Due to requests from museums and science centers for artifacts to display, NASA has completed the monumental task of sorting through more than a million items, from orbiters to spacesuits, and cockpit windows as well as two of the space shuttles - Atlantis and Endeavour. The shuttle Discovery is headed to the Smithsonian. Though donated, it will cost $29 million to prepare and transport it.
Since 20 other organizations, museums and universities have requested parts of the shuttles, NASA has posted 2,500 artifacts on its website, including objects linked to Hubble, Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini missions. They are on view for a period of 90-days along with their history (http://gsaxcess.gov/NASAWel.htm).
Submitted requests will be examined by a special committee to determine a fair distribution of the relics, with consideration for the educational benefits of displaying the items. Priority goes to NASA visitors' centers and the Smithsonian, which requested 500 items objects for its institutions, such as the National Air and Space Museum.
Other items up for grabs include a crew's training module and astronauts' favorite space food - shrimp cocktail.