Friday, March 26, 2010

Sen. Chuck Schumer 'really excited' after chat with NASA about getting shuttle for Intrepid museum

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Space shuttle Discovery lands at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., in 2009. Discovery is one of the shuttles that the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum would love to have. Raoux/AP/Pool

New York has the right stuff to land a space shuttle on the Hudson.

That's the message NASA Administrator Charles Bolden delivered Wednesday to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has been pushing for the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum to be the permanent hangar for one of three soon-to-be-retired shuttles.

"He said that we are on the launching pad, we haven't yet got liftoff," Schumer told the Daily News. "I think it's his view that on the merits we are in very, very good shape. But we're not there yet."

The Intrepid is competing with museums in 25 other cities to win one of the shuttles, including Washington's Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

A NASA spokesman told The News that the agency intends to award the shuttles to the sites where the most people could view them.

New York officials note the Intrepid, with its 1 million visitors a year, fits the bill.

"I am really excited," said Schumer, who has written and phoned Bolden as part of his recruiting pitch.

"This is an amazing thing for New York," he added.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she had an "encouraging" talk with Bolden last week - and her aides have been lobbying Vice President Biden, who is chairman of NASA's board.

"Landing the space shuttle in New York City would not only create a new iconic landmark on the West Side, it would generate significant new tourism dollars to help rebuild our economy and spark new educational opportunities for the largest possible audience," Gillibrand said.

Mayor Bloomberg, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn are also shuttle boosters.

"The museum is ready and equipped to accommodate such a substantial exhibit," Stringer wrote in a letter to Congress.

Officials estimate that having one of the shuttles - either the Atlantis, Endeavour or Discovery - would bring in about $100 million in revenue a year.

The shuttles, to be decommissioned next year, are expected to be ready for delivery by July 2011, after NASA scientists take apart and decontaminate the ships.

The Intrepid would have to pay $28.8 million to reassemble and transport the shuttle to Pier 86 on Manhattan's West Side.

Museum officials are also trying to raise about $40 million to build a glass enclosure to house the spacecraft.

"I think we as a city should be deeply humbled and more than excited that this may really come to fruition," said Intrepid President Bill White.

He encouraged New Yorkers to log onto to sign a petition of support or donate money.

"We need your contributions and your signature today," White said.

NASA expects to make a decision by July, but sources said it could come as soon as next month.