Three retiring space shuttles and a fourth test vehicle will be showcased at museums in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Merritt Island, Fla., NASA announced Tuesday at a ceremony in Florida.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that many of the more than 20 cities that had applied deserved a shuttle.
The decision means that Houston, home of NASA's mission control, will be without a space shuttle at its Johnson Space Center. Houston had lobbied hard for a shuttle, calling itself the home of the space program. Bolden said that other space program artifacts would be distributed to museums that did not land shuttles.
The first shuttle location Bolden announced Tuesday was the place where NASA missions are launched, and the place he was speaking.
"First, the Kennedy Space Center, where every shuttle mission and so many other historic occurrences began, will showcase my old friend Atlantis," Bolden said to cheers at the Florida site.
Bolden then announced that the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which will begin its final mission on April 19, would go to the California Space Center in Los Angeles.
The Endeavor mission will be the next-to-last launch of a NASA space shuttle.
The Space Shuttle Enterprise, which never flew in space, but used as a prototype for tests at the beginning of the program, would be moved from Washington, D.C., to New York's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan, Bolden said.
Enterprise will be replaced in Washington by the Space Shuttle Discovery, which will go to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
Other museums that had sought shuttles include the Museum of Flight in Seattle and the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
The NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which set the process for the retirement of the space shuttles, said they should go to locations best able to host the display and with the best potential value to the public.
Bolden said Tuesday he was confident New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Florida fit that description.
"People from across our nation and around the world will continue to learn from these amazing vehicles," he said.
"Take good care of our vehicles," Bolden advised them. "They have served the nation well, and we at NASA have a deep and abiding love affair with them that's hard to put in words."
Tuesday's announcement also marked the 50th anniversary of human space flight.