For £17.7m, shuttle is a gift that's out of this world

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The Independent Online

It flew faster and higher than any machine in history and was the was the ultimate boy's toy, but at $42 million (£25.8 m) it was beyond most budgets. But now the price of Nasa's soon-to-be redundant space shuttles has plummeted to something more down-to-earth: a new analysis of the costs of hauling the monster from the Kennedy Space Centre to a major US airport has led the space agency to slash the price to $28.2 m (£17.7m) .

Discovery, which has completed 37 missions into space and 5,247 orbits, has already been promised to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, but shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour are still available.

Nasa is also mulling the possibility of putting Enterprise, a shuttle prototype that never made it to space, on sale.

Nasa decided to sell the shuttles ahead of their retirement later this year. They are set to be replaced by the new Ares 1-X rocket, which is due to take over all manned space flights in 2015.

If the new price is still too daunting, an even bigger bargain comes in the shape of the shuttle's engines - no longer required once the craft is in a museum. The agency offered them for sale at between $400,000 and $800,000, but there were no takers. They are now offering them free, to anyone with the wherewithal to take them home.

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