The preferred spot for the model is the field just south of the Columbia Memorial Space Center, said Louis Atwell, the city’s assistant director of public works.
The city would like build a shelter for the mock-up, which is made mostly of wood and plastic.
“It will basically be an annex building to the Space Center,” he said.
But the new home won’t come cheap.
The city will need $2 – $3 million for a building to house mock-up, and it will need even more money to shore up the giant model, which is in disrepair.
“That $2 million figure does not cover any of the cost of renovations,” Atwell said.
The city this month announced a plan to temporarily move the shuttle mock-up into a tent on the parking lot just north of Space Center. The tent will be massive, Atwell said. The mock-up is 35-feet tall and more than 122-feet long.
It will probably stay there for about two years until the city, in partnership with the Aerospace Legacy Foundation, raises enough money to build a permanent home.
The cost of the relocation is $157,000. Industrial Realty Group, the owner of the old NASA plant, paid $100,000 of the moving costs and the city is picking up the rest of the tab.
IRG is demolishing most of the buildings at the NASA site to build a shopping center and office complex.
As for paying for the new building, the city realistically cannot afford it.
The goal, according to Atwell, is to eventually let people back into the shuttle, which is currently unsafe and will need major work before its ready for aspiring astronauts to climb around inside.
The shuttles were built at the Rockwell facility in Downey, and city officials say they are dead set on keeping the city’s history and engineering culture alive.
At a Public Works Committee hearing on Thursday, Atwell dished a little trivia about the mockup. It was built with one wing so it would take up less space. And the tail fin was a little short.
And, according to Atwell, the mock-up – built in 1972 — was among the main reasons Rockwell was awarded the contract to build the shuttle, which was first launched into space in 1981.
“One of the ways they won it was because the mock-up we have here,” he said.
The mock-up was used by engineers and designers to build out the inside of the shuttle, and it was also used as a showcase to convince government workers that Rockwell had the right stuff to build a vehicle that could launch into space and then return safely to earth.
Due to the final flight of the space shuttle last year and the effort by communities all over the nation to get the shuttles and other space memorabilia for museum displays, the time is ripe to raise money for Downey’s project, Atwell said.
“We couldn’t have asked for better timing,” Atwell said.