back to article NASA will give away old Shuttles for free

NASA has announced plans for disposal of the Space Shuttle fleet and spare main engines. The space agency intends to donate one orbiter to the Smithsonian museum, and give the others to "educational institutions, science museums, and other appropriate organizations". The proud new owners will need to stump up an estimated $ …


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  1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    "Must be kept indoors"?

    It's a bit rich to tell people what they can do with them after they've bought them, isn't it?

    Anyway, AIUI, the poor old Enterprise has been parked outside (at one of the DC airports, I think) for quite some time.

  2. Pete Silver badge

    learned from eBay

    Buy it Now price: $0.00, P&P $42 million

    Vendor reserves the right to delay shipping, or to cancel the auction - if he chooses to keep the items.

  3. Jolyon Ralph

    Bit of a cheek

    NASA have a bit of a cheek asking the museums to pay towards the cost of decommissioning all the nasty bits within the shuttles - if NASA had to scrap them they'd have to cover the costs of doing this themselves anyway.

  4. Horridbloke

    Why do they get two?

    Boo, unfair! The Smithsonian already has a shuttle (albeit the non-atmosphere-leaving Enterprise) and they've ruined it by cleaning it up.

    What's the betting that Beardy Branson will stick a sneaky bid in?

  5. Shane McCarrick
    Thumb Up



    One of those would go nicely with the nuclear sub at the science museum in Paris, me thinks.....

    Am I the only person who visits Paris solely to go to its science museum, I wonder?

  6. David Shepherd

    Shuttle for Bristol!

    > But you'll need an 8,000 to 10,000 foot runway handy

    Got one of those right next to where they plan to build a new museum at Filton for the last Concorde ... so why not add a "Space Shuttle" wing to it!

    Sounds ideal ... just need to find the $42M

  7. Parax


    Not outside now, its inside the new smithsonian building at Dullas (Near Washington DC) ..along with an SR71 and some other bits & bobs...

  8. Joe Cooper
    Black Helicopters

    @Uncle Slacky

    "It's a bit rich to tell people what they can do with them after they've bought them, isn't it?"

    I know, what BS!

    I WAS going to buy one and keep it on my lawn, then let the teenagers next door take it apart, but NOOOOoooooOOOooooo. I have to keep it out of the "rain"! Pffft!

    I mean, it's not like there are only three flight-worthy Space Shuttles on Earth that need to be kept preserved for a very long time because they're soon to be un-replaceable historical artifacts.

    Trying to control what I do with national history... Communist bastards.

    Next thing you know they'll ban pissing on the Washington Monument. Freedom of Speech my ten inch dick.

  9. Damn Yank

    "climate controlled display space"

    Quite the little hot-house orchid, isn't it??

  10. Stuza

    So you can't just re-sell it then? :(

    Damn! I was gona buy this (sort of) and stick it on Ebay!

    Starting bid .... i dunno a few mil

    Delivery Charges .... 42mil

    I think you get the idea

  11. James McGregor
    Thumb Up


    Oooh yes, I'd love an orbiter please! Just thinking of all the fun my son and I could have with it, sitting at the controls making engine noises and pretending we're saving the world from a huge meteor strike. In the unlikely event we get bored of that, it's also the perfect BBQ tool ... I could fetch beers from the fridge with that robot arm thing, keep masses of burgers and buns in the payload area and toast marshmallows with the rocket engines.

  12. Gordon Pryra

    Cheap shot at fundng the mothballing of their fleet

    What a great way to get somone else to pay for the upkeep of their rusty metal birds. And when they need them again, they just take them back.

  13. Tony T


    Enterprise is on display inside the main hangar of the Udvar-Hazy annexe of the Air & Space Museum at Dulles. Perhaps it was outside at one point, but not any more.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Last time I visited the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum annex at Dulles Airport, the Enterprise was on display in it's own side was not "parked outside".

  15. Ralph B


    Didn't NASA already make the space shuttle Columbia available - in kit form - back in 2003? I don't remember them being so fussy about people keeping it indoors in those days.

  16. Tony

    @Shane McCarrick

    'Am I the only person who visits Paris solely to go to its science museum, I wonder?'

    Yep. The rest of us just go because it annoys the French so much.

  17. Frostbite


    Yep, I had the same though as Pete above.

    Definately NASA learning from eBay.

    Buy-It-Now: $0.99

    P&P: $42,000,000

    I'll just get my wallett, there's $42m here somewhere......

  18. Richard


    How about we forgo the decommissioning costs, and they just hand it over in working order. Someone else might actually have a use for the old rust buckets.

  19. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Up

    @Uncle re: old Shuttles exhibited outdoors

    You may be thinking of the old Soviet shuttle counterpart, the Buran, which, after a single unmanned test flight, was decommissioned and the program discontinued owing to budgetary issues; iirc, the one full-up flight-ready Buran was last seen sitting outside in its "safing area" at Baikonur. (Mark Wade's could tell you for sure).

    It's also interesting to note that the Soviet Buran shuttle was almost an exact aerodynamic copy of the US STS orbiter, and what's really uncanny is how the Soviets managed to almost exactly duplicate the US Shuttle, right down to the late delivery date and astronomical cost overruns.

    Also, the idea that NASA could recall the "retired" Shuttle craft for further use not only sounds like more of a pain in the ass than it's worth, but too depressingly like the premise of a Stephen Baxter story.

  20. Steve

    main engine

    Light blue touch paper and retire...

    That would be a Guy Fawkes night to remember

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Am I the only one who finds it hilarious that the dimension on that diagram are all in feet and pounds?

  22. Yorkshirepudding

    pimp my shuttle?

    you could fit a warp 5 engine in the cargo bay, pop some nacelles on the side, couple of photon torpedo tubes here and there and your off, bah nasa! amateurs XD

  23. Pat

    NASA Auction!

    for the first time in modern TV History, can finally say that Simpsons didnt already do it

    sure Homer went into space, but Peter actually OWNS the damed thing!

    All systems a go-go with unlimited gas!

  24. Lewis Mettler

    from the Apollo program

    Years ago (1980 or so) I traded for an engine from the Apollo program. I believe it was the engine for the lunar lander. Might have been for the module that orbited the moon waiting for the boys to bounce back up and go home.

    In any event it was just space junk. Expensive as hell to make but I bought it (traded for it actually) for less than $10,000. In turn I traded the engine for a old HP 3000 minicomputer. No idea where that engine is now.

    Really neat stuff though. Lots of expensive and unique metals, tubes and other parts not to mention the bell housing. Would make a great paper weight. Hold down lots. Must have been about 300 pounds.

    I did display it in the entry way to the time sharing facility I ran at the time. Systime was the company name. Not the same company as in UK. We had to sue those boys to keep them out of California, USA,

    Mine is the one with the titanium and aluminum buttons.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    @Mike Flugennock

    The sad thing about Buran was that, yes, it was late, but it's use of slightly more modern technology gave it a number of nice features. Firstly, it could fly unmanned - which the shuttle couldn't. The Energia booster was far more powerful than the cobble together affair the shuttle uses - this meant that the shuttle didn't need to waste space with huge engines of its own, and Russia had a heavy lift rocket that could be used with/without the shuttle. Energia's story of being abandoned is similarly sad.

    In the end, the yanks end up with Apollo-on-steroids to replace the space shuttle (should have been the aerospace plane), while the Ruskies stick to the antique Soyuz. Boldly going forward, in reverse....

    Will they drop the $6m if I collect? I'm sure I can get it in the car if I drop the back seats.....

  26. n

    No doubt...

    Rich Gullible Nationalistic Fool Wanted - apply within and turn the air conditioners to LOUD.

  27. Ferry Boat

    Interested but

    Does one have to display them in a vertical or horizontal position? You know, like posed for launch or just landed. Our spare room is quite long but not so high.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Safety record

    If in the intervening period, if two of the three remaining shuttles suffer the same fate as Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003, do you get a refund?

    I expect to suffer the same fates as the aforementioned shuttles for this one

  29. r

    @Lewis Mettler - LM descent engine?!?!?

    And how, pray tell, did you get it back to Earth???

    Mine's the coat with the PLSS on the back.

  30. Jeremy

    Re: Feet

    No, doesn't surprise me in the least. Bloody backward country.

    I asked my stepdaughter (12) if she knew how big a millimetre was the other day. First she looked at me like I was speaking Swahili, then started doing a 'the fish that got away, it was *this* big' impression before finally settling on a distance of... About a foot.

    The only two countries left in the world who haven't adopted the metric system are: the United States and.... Burma. I kid you not.

  31. Anonymous Coward


    well.. as they say.. we're 5 hours ahead and they're 30 years behind!..

    Mine's the one with those ceramic re-entry tiles on... well at least those that haven't fallen off!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm glad NASA's learned from the Saturn V and Skylab and required them to not be left outside to rot.

    It cost a mint and a lot of work to refurb things and get all the birdshit and everything out.

    I'm glad KSC finally stumped up for a nice building for its Saturn V. The sight of a moon rocket left to rust was sad, but a pretty accurate reflection of America.

  33. Cucumber C Face


    Osama Bin Laden need not apply I take it?

  34. Simon Greenwood

    Branson yes, what about Google?

    I'm reminded me of the dotcom-rich geek in Neal Stephenson's 'Cryptomnicon' who has a crashed 747 on display in his house. Sergey and Larry would give one a home.

  35. TimM

    Surely they need one on standby though...

    ... how else is Bruce going to save us from impending doom otherwise?

  36. Cliff

    A million of us at $42 each?

    C'mon Reg, you can round up a million geeks to chip in $42/€42/£42 each surely? And we'll get a major law firm to pro bono the paperwork for publicity purposes.

    Park it in Bristol so it can reminisce with Concorde over an Ovaltine.

  37. Peter Stern


    "special attention will be paid to ensuring they will retire to appropriate places."

    Darn... I wanted to pick one up, park it up north and use it as a cottage...

  38. Jon Minhinnick

    El Reg knows of the perfect place already...

    It's already climate controlled, definitely secure, and probably large enough to fit two shuttles...

    In the BoFH's secret server facility, FTW!

  39. Zmodem

    waste of time

    the last shuttle should be fitted with remote control and send it out of orbit. and back again if possible. kitted out with all new cargo of sensors of radiation etc. or just park next to the concorde

  40. Dave

    @Damn Yank

    Actually I don't think it's that temperature-sensitive, although I understand that getting one too hot will cause it to fall apart. Space is somewhat cold and re-entry is rather warm. What it probably doesn't like is water.

  41. James O'Brien


    Damnit I wanted to buy one and use it to get a laser into orbit then hold the world hostage for ONE BILLION DOLLARS!!

    /mines the one with Mr. Bigglesworth in the pocket. Thanks.

  42. vincent himpe

    if they

    throw in a couple of SRB's and a spare fuel tank.

    Has anyone figured out how to run linux on the main computer yet ? If not , no big deal. It runs PL/1 anyway.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    @ Shane McCarrick

    "One of those would go nicely with the nuclear sub at the science museum in Paris, me thinks....."

    It's an Aréthuse class sub, which according to the webs most famous encyclopedia was running on diesel-électrique engines, put in service in '58 and a hunter sub.

    "Am I the only person who visits Paris solely to go to its science museum, I wonder?"

    Not sure =) But if that is the case with you, next time definitely go to the Musée des arts et métiers:

  44. Jacob Lipman


    Do a bit of research before you blow smoke out your ass, you ignorant boob.

    "No, doesn't surprise me in the least. Bloody backward country.

    I asked my stepdaughter (12) if she knew how big a millimetre was the other day. First she looked at me like I was speaking Swahili, then started doing a 'the fish that got away, it was *this* big' impression before finally settling on a distance of... About a foot.

    The only two countries left in the world who haven't adopted the metric system are: the United States and.... Burma. I kid you not."

    You may not be kidding, but you're still incorrect. Add Liberia to your list, and remember that the present military junta in "Burma" has christened (buddha'd?) the country Myanmar.

    In the United States...

    -Commercial food products must include metric measurements (and all nutritional information is offered in grams)

    -U.S. beverage companies commonly sell 1L and 2L bottles.

    -It is illegal to refuse to trade in metric measurements

    -The ATF requires both liquor and wine to be sold in metric quantities (typically 1L bottles of wine, 750Ml, 1L, and 1.75L bottles of liquor)

    -The US stock exchange finally caught up with the rest of the world in 2001, leaving behind the old fractional system (stock prices were rendered down to the eighth of the dollar) for the metric system

    -All U.S. measurements are defined by the metric system

    -Pharmaceutical dosages are measured in milligrams.

    In the U.K...

    -The U.K. is not by any means fully converted. Beer is sold by the pint and marijuana is often purchased by the ounce or fraction thereof

    -The Register is located in the U.K., and has abandoned the metric system in favor of its own zany brand of measurement

    -The U.K.'s currency is referred to as the Pound, rather than the Kilo

    -It is rumored that the weight of many objects, such as people and horses, are measured in "stone"

    -I don't live in the UK, nor have I ever been there, but I think it's fair to assume (seeing as you've already made an ass of yourself, it seems only fair to obey the proverb and follow suit) that Brits regularly measure distances in leagues and furlongs, land in acres, crops in bushels, human heights in feet and inches, and depths in fathoms

    In Canada...

    -In Canada, as well, weed is generally sold by the "half quarter" (1/8 ounce, 3.5g), ounce, and pound. Their somewhat more legally recognized measures (like speed limits, gasoline/petrol quantity, and food packages tend to be metric, but many products are precisely the same as their American equivalents but labelled only with metric measurements (for example the 12oz. beverage can, labelled "355Ml" in Canada.

    -Even though the speed-limit signs are posted in Km/h, locals in many parts of the country will still reference road distances in miles.

    It also occurs to me that everybody uses a non-decimal system of measuring even daily time. There are 34,560 seconds in a day, why not just make seconds last about three and a half times as long? That way we could have ten hours every day, each consisting of 100 minutes which in turn each contain 100 milliseconds.

    It can be taken further yet; let's go ahead and standardise the year and month. Forget the orbit of the Earth, we need some form of standard, universal measurement that allows for useful time references between the Earth and any future space stations/lunar colonies/planetary colonies. For the sake of the diurnal cycle, we'll keep the rotation of the Earth as a measurement of the day; those very same ten metric hours should serve us well. I can't make up my mind as to whether 100 or 1000 days would be better for a year, but as a rough draft of sorts the coin flip will do in its selection of 100 days. That way, we can forgo months altogether and make each of the year's ten weeks ten days long.

    Perhaps this will mean people's ages are usually referenced in decades. It would likely mean some clever fellows would get to create new names for the days of the week, and shuffle or rename the months. I rather like going the boring route of Greek and Latin numerical prefixes, akin to the last four months of the year (for the English version, of course. Translated versions would use whatever fit their style).

    Unember (Uniember? Monoember?)

    Duember (Diember? Biember?)

    Triember (Trember? Terember?)

    Quadrember (Tetrember?)

    Quintember (Pentember?)

    Sextember (Hexember?)





    And for the days of the week, maybe






    Sexday (favorite)

    Hepday (the day after sexday, obviously, when the test comes back positive)

    Ashday (ran out of decent Greek/Latin, stole a little truncated Sanskrit)



    I forgot where I was going with all that, so I'll leave both those of you who slogged through the whole comment, and those who rolled their eyes and skipped to the bottom to see if I ended up saying anything useful, with a quote from an online dictionary as it applies to this comment:

    "tan·gent (tnjnt)

    3. A sudden digression or change of course"

  45. Allan Dyer
    Black Helicopters

    Following the Rules

    Can't help wondering... did NASA fill in the Export paperwork each time they launched it?

    And it should be kept indoors? Like OUTer space is INdoors?

    Oh, wait, maybe they ran the whole shuttle program from the Apollo film set...

  46. Frank Hrabetin

    NASA giveaway?

    This should be the US net tax producer gives away, through NASA, old space shuttles without out our permission. This is the outfit that can't keep its' feet and meters straight.

  47. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    @Joe Cooper

    "Un-replaceable historical artifacts"? Come on! As a warning from history, I suppose - the classic "gazelle desigend by committee" that ends up looking not unlike a hippo.

    I'm reminded of the recent debate about whether Morris Marinas are worth preserving before Top Gear destroys them all.

  48. Marc

    Getting shot of unwanted gear

    Ok it's quite obvious this is NASA's way to avoid the decommissioning costs. Maybe if they thought outside of the box a little bit more then decommissioning becomes easy and cheap...

    Send the thing into space, point it in the direction of the Sun... give it a nudge in the general direction, gravity takes over and does the rest...all parts returned to their base elements and in a completely eco-friendly fashion!

    Physics means that these elements will return to us an a few billion years, whats not to like?

  49. Martin Lyne


    A bit of rain would kill it, but multiple reentries and exposure to mostly-vacuum and micrometeorite impacts..

    Oh well. I'd love to see one up close, a reminder of mankind's golden age of space-faring. Back to the caves we go.

  50. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: tan·gent (tnjnt)

    In what excuse for a dialect are the two vowels in tangent pronounced the same way?

  51. Sebastian

    @Jacob Lipman - "metric" days of the week

    Actually, your idea for "metric"-ish days of the week is nothing new - in Portuguese, the weekdays are -

    segunda feira (Monday)

    tertia feira

    quarta feira

    quinta feira

    sexta feira

    which (as you will have guessed) translates as "second day", "third day", etc. Only the weekend days have non-trivial names (sabado and domingo). Kind of spoils the geeky fun a bit ...

  52. g00p

    if u.. for the respray (or do it yourself) and pick it up from its location....does that count as free? :P

  53. Shane McCarrick

    Musée des arts et métiers

    @ Anonymous coward- I've never been to the Musée des arts et métiers- thanks for the heads-up, it'll definitively be on our itinerary on our trip. Thank god my wife is a nerd too :)


  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Mike Flugennock

    Sorry, the Buran orbiter was totally destroyed in 2002 when the roof of its hanger collapsed. The second orbiter was practically complete when the programme was cancelled and might still be intact somewhere at Baikonur.

    Some of the non-spaceworthy analogues are still around; one is in Germany, another was (is?) in Gorki Park, Moscow and another is parked outside at Baikonur.

  55. Simon


    The ultimate "Pimp My Ride" vehicle!

  56. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Not Another Stupid Announcement

    I could build myself a good replica Shuttle for under $1M so why on earth (or off it) would anyone pay $42M for the "real-thing"?

    Ok, it's been in space but when it comes down to it, it's a bus, and not a very reliable one at that.

    Think of it as the Bendy-Bus of space travel.

    If it were a "Routemaster" of space travel then we'd all be clamouring for them.

    I imagine they will all go to good homes in nice patriotic US museums and theme-parks.

    As for the export restrictions, well, they can't have nasty Ay-rab types flying them can they?

  57. Neo

    Ideal delivery date !

    Hmmmmm delivery by May 2012 ? I humbly suggest that if it could be negotiated to be delivered to the East London Stratford Spaceport in 2012 it might make a nice little opening 'splash' (or should that be 'bang!) to the London Olympics !

    However that is providing that Jezza does not out bid the London Olympic Committee and London Tax Payers Consortium and place it outside his home alongside his British Jet Fighter plane !

    Oh ! Seems like the BBC should try to decommission its space shuttle too if you ask Me !

    Mine's the Out of this world one for obvious reasons !

  58. Thomas Ware
    IT Angle


    Enterprise is stored indoors @ Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. BTW, wasnt he one of you Blokes?

  59. Mike

    I just had a picture...

    in my mind, of the shuttle sitting in front of some red-necks trailer on cement blocks with all the hatches open and the engine gone.

  60. TJ

    Why not?

    Hey, if they can get an organization to cough up the decommissioning costs, why not do it? Makes accounting sense to me. Though don't want the highest bidder, its still fair game, they DO want to make sure they cover their losses. For people who work with programming numbers you all sure suck at balance sheet methodology. Why should we as tax payers pay for something when a willing org. will pick up the tab and give it a decent parking spot?

    My 3 choices would be:

    1. Smithsonian = Discovery

    2. Chicago Museum of Science and Industry = Atlantis

    3. Houston, TX = Endeavour

    Runners up = San Fransisco, CA, Seattle WA. Denver, CO. But I think my top 3 are the best sites. Spreading them out should be a key factor, although my top 3 are shuning the weat coast.

    Delivery in Chicago would be trickey, but I would probably land it in Gary, IN and then float it up on a barge VIA lake michigan.

    All this is in vain anyway, as they will most certainly be extended by the new CAC. The gap between shuttle and Orion has grown to large, IMO, if something were to happen up @ ISS, we need a vehcile to get there and back. (No offense to Russia)

  61. Anonymous Coward

    not to mention the customs paperwork.

    "...full carrion-eater paintjob on the roof of Vulture Towers, ...not to mention the customs paperwork."

    Just tick the "Nothing to Declare" box, they'll never check.

  62. Joe Cooper

    @vincent himpe

    IIRC, they installed a new glass cockpit on all of them that runs on Linux.

    The Columbia flight that boned itself on landing was the first with the new system.


  63. Anonymous Coward


    It's not as simple as one would assume to jettison junk into the Sun, due to orbital mechanics.

    For an object in Earth's orbit to fall into the Sun, it needs to lose it's orbital velocity with regards to the Sun, which is a change in velocity of about 100,000 km/h, which is considerably more effort than it takes to put it in orbit in the first place.

    Of course, we could always build a space elevator out of a carbon nanotube ribbon, and slingshot junk into the Sun, but I can't see it happening any time soon.

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