We have some fun Friday news for you today. The Museum of Flight and representatives from the Washington state tourism industry raised a specially created Space Shuttle flag to the top of the Space Needle to demonstrate statewide tourism support for bringing one of the three retiring NASA Space Shuttles to Washington state.
Joining Interim Museum of Flight President Mike Hallman and retired astronaut and Wings Over Washington Executive Director Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar at the flag raising event were representatives from Washington State Tourism and the Convention and Visitors Bureaus of Bellingham, Kitsap Peninsula, Seattle, Seattle Southside, Spokane Valley, Tacoma and Yakima Valley.
In the news conference held just before the flag was raised, Dr. Dunbar, who is leading the effort to bring a Space Shuttle to Washington state, spoke about the importance of the Shuttle exhibit as a symbol of Washington state’s position as a worldwide leader in aerospace education and engineering innovation.
“A Space Shuttle at the Museum of Flight will help to educate the public about why and how we explore the worlds around us, will encourage the current generation of engineers as they design and build new spacecraft for that exploration, and will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to continue exploring the frontiers of space. The Space Shuttle, housed in its new Space Gallery, and co-located with the new Aviation High School will be a one of a kind lighthouse for STEM education. Exploration is part of human nature, and has always paved the way for new and significant scientific discoveries,” said Dr. Dunbar. “But education will be the engine to enable it.”
During the news conference, representatives from the Washington state tourism bureau explained how a Space Shuttle would not only give Washington state a one-of-a-kind educational tool, but that it would also boost tourism and the economy statewide.
“In addition to inspiring our youth and growing our future workforce, bringing a Space Shuttle to Washington state will offer a major boost to the state economy,” said Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are proud to help promote this through our tourism bureaus statewide.”
“The excitement generated by the acquisition of a Space Shuttle would attract many more visitors, of all ages, from all over the world and would increase revenue for hotels, restaurants and other businesses throughout Washington,” said John Cooper, president and CEO of the Yakima Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau and current president of the Washington State Destination Marketing Organization (WSDMO). “We are very excited to be part of this effort.”
In June, the Museum of Flight broke ground on the first phase of its new 15,500-square-foot “Human Space Flight Gallery.” The Space Gallery, costing approximately $12 million, will be located on the west side of East Marginal Way, across the street from the main museum campus. The State legislature earlier approved $3 million in capital support to build the Gallery, with the remaining funds coming from private foundations and individual donations. While a decision has not yet been made on where these Shuttles will retire, having a climate-controlled building in place for the Space Shuttle is among the requirements that NASA established in its 2008 and 2009 Requests for Information (RFI) to the public.
The final decision from NASA on which museums around the nation will be awarded a Shuttle is dependent on several criteria in addition to having a climate-controlled building. NASA’s principle focus is on K-12 education and inspiration to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers. Other requirements for the applying institutions include a commitment to educate the public through demonstrated experience in exhibit and display development, a sufficiently long enough runway on which to land the 747 that will carry the Shuttles to their ultimate destinations, and being located near a large metropolitan area. “We believe we are uniquely qualified in all of these areas,” Dunbar said.