Congressional competition for space shuttles as fierce as external lobbying

Ohio’s congressional delegation wrote a letter to NASA Charles Bolden lobbying for the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton. In it, Ohio’s congressional delegation played up their state’s connection to the Wright Brothers.

“Ohio, the birthplace of aviation, is proud of its century-long tradition of aviation pioneering and human spaceflight development,” reads the letter, dated Feb. 7.

A week later, following the release of President Obama’s 2012 budget request on Feb. 14, members of the Ohio delegation sent another letter to President Obama that specifically named the Atlantis. The president’s budget included $14 million to prepare and display Atlantis at the National Air and Space Museum, seemingly indicating Obama’s preferences. although the choice is up to NASA.

According to the congressional delegation from Texas, allocating funds is premature.

“With the locations for the space shuttle orbiters still yet to be determined, requesting $14 million appears to be either premature or indicate that, despite the assurances from NASA, final decisions have already been made,” reads the letter Texas lawmakers sent to Bolden at the end of March.

The entire Texas congressional delegation in January signed a letter to Bolden lobbying for one the three shuttles.

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), who represents the Houston area in Congress, held a rally there in March along with Texas state legislatures urging NASA to choose "Space City."

Bolden has indicated he might want to send a shuttle to the Space Center, too.

"If I were not the NASA administrator, I would say the places that should get an orbiter are Houston, the Cape [Canaveral]," Bolden said in an interview with local TV station KTRK.

The quote has been used by Houston officials to argue the city is the logical choice.

But other cities are not giving up. The Florida congressional delegation has been campaigning for a shuttle to go to the Kennedy Space Center since at least 2009, when former Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D) led delegation members in sending letter to Bolden. Both Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a former astronaut himself, and freshman Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) have been vocal in their support.

The Museum of Flight in Washington state has actually started building a new $12 million wing to house the shuttle it hopes to get. In her letter to Bolden last September, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) emphasized the Boeing Company’s contribution to the space program.

And the Intrepid Sea-Air- Space Museum in New York City has collected more than 150,000 signatures on a public petition with support from members of both New York’s and New Jersey’s congressional delegations. Lawmakers talked up their location’s access to “millions of tourists who visit every year” in their letter to Bolden last April.

A decision by Bolden is set for April 12 — the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight.