Chaffetz proposes bill to overrule NASA; move retired space shuttle to Houston

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has proposed legislation to overturn NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's decision on where to send the retiring space shuttles.

Chaffetz, the chairman of the House subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations, filed a bill that would send a shuttle to Houston, the home of NASA's mission control.

Several Texas lawmakers reacted bitterly when Bolden announced he would place shuttles in New York City, near Washington, D.C., in central Florida and in Los Angeles, Calif., but not send one to Houston.

Chaffetz's bill would move the space shuttle Enterprise from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan, N.Y. — where Bolden ordered it to be sent — to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The measure would leave Discovery at the Smithsonian in the Washington area, Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Endeavour at the California Space Center.

"After hearing many of my colleagues in Congress cry out: 'Earth to NASA,' I am seeking to restore common sense and fairness to the space shuttle retirement home debate,” Chaffetz said in a statement. 

“Instead of relying on political guidance systems, these decisions must be steered by history and logic," Chaffetz continued. "My legislation would designate the retirement home of the three Space Shuttles based on the location and history of the Shuttles’ launches, landings, and mission support, the fourth based on the Smithsonian’s role in preserving American artifacts.”

Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blasted the decision to snub Houston when it was announced by Bolden Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of human space flight.

“Disappointed that the #spaceshuttle will not go to Houston’s JSC,” tweeted Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), usually a staunch supporter of the Obama administration and whose district includes parts of Houston. “We are the home of human space flight.”

Relatives of five astronauts who died in space shuttle accidents also said they were “heartbroken” by the decision to pass Houston over.

“Home is where the heart is, and Houston has served as the heart of the space shuttle program since its inception nearly four decades ago. All the astronauts lost were Houston’s residents,” said a statement from Evelyn Husband Thompson, Jonathan Clark, Sandy Anderson, Lorna Onizuka and Cheryl McNair.

The signatories were all married to astronauts who died in the 1986 Challenger explosion or the 2003 Columbia accident.

When he announced his decisions Tuesday, Bolden did not mention Houston specifically, but he said NASA could not accommodate all of the more than 20 cities who applied for shuttles.

“There were many worthy institutions that requested an orbiter, and only four to go around,” he said during the speech, which marked the 30th anniversary of the U.S. space shuttle program.

The NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which set out 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.