TASM Hopes To Land Space Shuttle In Tulsa

Tuesday, May 12th 2009, 5:05 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Terry Hood, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa Air and Space Museum has its sights set on getting a space shuttle to touchdown in Tulsa.

Three shuttles will be retired next year and the museum hopes to get one to put on permanent display.

The executive director says the museum has room to grow and he's hoping, by next summer, a major new addition will be a retired space shuttle.

100,000 visitors tour the Tulsa Air and Space Museum every year.

A group of second graders from Bixby North enjoyed the NASA exhibit.

"It's cool to see the rocket launch off," said Mason Lee, second grade student.

"It just gives them ideas about what pilots do and what it's like to go to space," said Tricia Gruenwald, elementary school teacher.

Atlantis, which blasted off yesterday, Discovery and Endeavor will be retired next summer and NASA wants to find a place to permanently display them.

"We have more kids that want to come to the Tulsa Air and Space Museum than we have room available, so we need to have a building project and we would like that building project to be capable of housing the space shuttle," said Jim Bridenstine of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum.

Bridenstine says the museum is the perfect place for the shuttle.

The shuttle bay doors and the device that moves the shuttle to an upright position were built in Tulsa.

Plus, Tulsa International Airport has the required 10,000 foot runway, but it doesn't come without a cost.

Bridenstine says the museum would need to show NASA it can raise between $50 million and $100 million to pay for new construction.

"Well, can we do it right now? Probably not, but that's the goal," said Bridenstine.

Regardless, Bridenstine says, the museum needs a new building anyway.

If it does happen, teachers say Oklahoma's school kids would benefit.

"Oh definitely, definitely, especially these second graders and elementary kids, they would love it," said Gruenwald.

Bridenstine says if the shuttle comes to Tulsa it could mean an additional $70 million each year to the city's economy.

Tulsa is up against 19 other museums across the country for the three shuttles. A decision won't be made until next summer.