On a memorable day in space history, NASA began its goodbyes to the shuttle program Tuesday, announcing the aged spacecraft will retire to museums in Cape Canaveral, Los Angeles and suburban Washington and sending a test-flight orbiter to New York City. The choice of homes for the spaceships — sometimes described as the most complex machinery ever devised — was hotly contested. Twenty-one museums and visitor centers around the country put in bids.
After it closes out the program, shuttle Atlantis will stay in Cape Canaveral at the space center's visitor complex, just miles from the pair of launch pads used to shoot the orbiters into space. Shuttle Endeavour, which makes its last flight at the end of the month, will head to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, about 60 miles from the plant where the shuttle was assembled. Discovery's new home will be the Smithsonian Institution's branch in northern Virginia near Washington Dulles International Airport. In exchange for the oldest shuttle, the Smithsonian is giving up Enterprise, a shuttle prototype used for test flights in the 1970s, where it will go to New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum for display in a glass enclosure on a Manhattan pier on the Hudson River.