One shuttle earns retirement at the Smithsonian, another should find a home in Dayton

Youngstown Vindicator

One of the final chapters has been written in a book that began almost 30 years ago, when a two-man crew rode the space shuttle Columbia into orbit on April 12, 1981.

Thursday afternoon the Discovery, NASA’s most-traveled shuttle, landed at Cape Canaveral, Fla., bringing its crew of six back safely once again.

The Discovery will be prepared for a new mission, as an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution. There are only two remaining missions scheduled in the shuttle program, which has brought inspiration and pain to America. The inspiration came as every mission was a testament to the ability of the men and women of NASA to get a vehicle that weighs more than 100 tons off the launch pad and into the sky. The pain came with the two shuttle flights that ended in tragedy, the explosion of the Challenger during the 51st shuttle mission Jan. 26, 1986, and the loss of the Columbia during re-entry on the 107th shuttle mission Feb. 1, 2003.

The final two shuttle missions scheduled are Endeavour, due to blast off April 19, and Atlantis, due to fly June 28. They will be shuttle missions 134 and 135.

The focus of the U.S. space program will shift toward exploration further into space, including Mars. After the shuttles are no longer available to take astronauts to the international space station, U.S. astronauts will hitch rides on Russian rockets. Someday, private contractors may provide that service.

But the shuttle program will be history, and Ohio has a stake in that history.

The Ohio connections

Ohio has produced 24 astronauts, including John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and later a crew member on a 1993 Discovery mission, and, of course, Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. Among those 24 there was also Dr. Ronald A. Parise, a Warren native and Youngstown State graduate. Dr. Judith Resnik of Akron was one of the seven crew members who died aboard the Challenger.

Those contributions to the space program by sons and daughters of the Buckeye State should make Ohio a prime candidate as home to one of the two remaining shuttles. A shuttle would be a perfect addition to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Dayton.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has long been an advocate for bringing one of the retired shuttles to the museum. He has been joined by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and the entire Ohio delegation. Also the Ohio Senate has committed to help fund the project, President Barack Obama included $14 million in his proposed budget and the Dayton area has pledged its enthusiastic support.

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One shuttle earns retirement at the Smithsonian, another should find a home in Dayton »