The High-Stakes Battle for NASA's Mothballed Spaceships

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Museums across the country are jostling for pole position for three of the nation's most-prized objets d'science: the decommissioned shuttles that represent America's post-Apollo space program. The spaceships are large and incredibly complex, so you'd think the traditional large museums would have the upper hand, but it turns out, NPR reports, that some surprising contenders have a shot at landing one of the craft.

The trouble is, NASA has only three spaceships -- Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour -- and the agency has said it intends to offer Discovery to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

That just leaves Atlantis and Endeavour, both of which are scheduled to fly for one last time this year. Still, even some small museums think they have a good chance of landing a spaceship that will rocket them into the big time.

For example, Houston wants a shuttle to come home to NASA's Mission Control, but it has some competition nearby. The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History in Bryan, Texas, has managed to become "a very serious contender" for a shuttle, according to its executive director, Deborah Cowman.

Read the full story at NPR.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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