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NASA The Almighty Buck Science

Lacking Buyers, NASA Cuts Prices On Shuttles and Old Engines 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the try-craigslist dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Russia's Space Shuttle, Buran, ended its days at a theme park in Moscow and was once offered for sale on the Internet for 3 million dollars. Now the NY Times reports that when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration put out the call in December 2008 seeking buyers for US shuttles from museums, schools and elsewhere, the agency didn't get as much interest as expected, so now NASA has slashed the price of the 1970s-era spaceships, available for sale this fall once their flying days are over, from $42 million to just $28.8 million apiece. 'We're confident that we'll get other takers,' says agency spokesman Mike Curie. The Discovery is already promised to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum but the Atlantis and the Endeavour are still up for grabs and it is possible that the Enterprise, a shuttle prototype that never made it to space, will also be available. The lower price is based on NASA's estimate of the cost for transporting a shuttle from Kennedy Space Center to a major airport, and for displaying it indoors in a climate-controlled building. As for the space shuttle main engines, those are now free. NASA advertised them in December 2008 for $400,000 to $800,000 each, but no one expressed interest. So now the engines are available, along with other shuttle artifacts, for the cost of transportation and handling."
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Lacking Buyers, NASA Cuts Prices On Shuttles and Old Engines

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  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @01:34PM (#30799930)
    One free shuttle engine.
    One old impala.
    Mythbusters
    Best Show EVER!
    • by rts008 (812749)

      Similar to what I was thinking...

      Concrete truck full of explosives
      Shuttle engine
      Abandoned mine/quarry
      Mythbusters
      Epic!

    • by jgardia (985157)
      Yeah... like this? http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin1995-04.html [darwinawards.com] Much better than the old JATO!
    • They called to say "permission denied"... twice!
    • MythBusters (Score:4, Funny)

      by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @03:09PM (#30800632)
      NARRATOR: Unfortunately, while it may be easy to purchase a used surplus NASA space engine, some of the logistics aren't turning out to be easy to handle!

      Adam Savage: [Jamie's stupid toy space suit in background] When we bought this thing, we figured, great! Now we don't need to build our own engine. Unfortunately, it seems that the engines are actually too big to transport on any truck we've been able to find. So that's going to be a problem, but we'll handle it.

      [Cut to scene of Jamie Hyneman wearing a welder's face helmet and blasting through sheet metal emblazoned "NASA" in those funny letters]

      NARRATOR: So while the rest of the guys are getting the lot ready for the explosion, Jamie is busy disassembling the engine into parts!

      Jamie Hyneman: [Lifts up welder's mask] This is turning out to be a lot of work, but if we're going to test this myth, we've got to get our water recycling machine up into space, bwwwwssssh [makes vertical "blast-off" gestures] and we'll be drinking our own pee and sweat in no time!
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You have the names the wrong way around. Jamie is the serious guy, Adam is the spazz.

      • by jhylkema (545853)

        Jamie Hyneman: "This is turning out to be a lot more work than we thought, but we bought an SSME and gosh darnit, we're going to get it into pieces. When in doubt, C4!"

    • A SSME for free, add some small tankage and off you go. A parachute might be nice too.
      Iron Man, you suck!

    • by Nazlfrag (1035012)

      Top Gear [youtube.com] did it already.

  • Put it on eBay! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @01:35PM (#30799940)
    'nuff said.
    • Gosh, no. Shuttles in museums will inspire kids and adults alike, which will mean far more to NASA (both in terms of voter support for budgets, as well as talent recruitment) than $10 or $20 million more that some private collector might offer.
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Think of the PayPal fees though...
  • by sznupi (719324) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @01:41PM (#30799988) Homepage

    The summary seems to imply otherwise. And not only almost finished or barely finished orbiters, also models for static tests, etc. Those also ended up as tourist attractions or in museums (or rusting in scrapyard)

    In fact, the Buran, the one that made orbital flight, was probably destroyed by a hangar collapse in 2002... (along with the remaining Energia mock-up on which it was laid to rest...)
    http://www.buran.ru/images/jpg/bbur90.jpg [buran.ru]
    http://www.buran.ru/images/jpg/bbur89.jpg [buran.ru]

    BTW, Should we really count Enterprise as a prototype? It couldn't made it into space...Columbia seems more appropriate. Or, if insisting on rules lax enough to include Enterprise, Endeavor seems a better choice as the "first", actually. Since it's a rebuild structural "airframe" that was used for static tests (so likely before Enterprise), to replenish the fleet with fully capable orbiter after Challenger disaster.

    PS. Free Shuttle parts for the cost of transport?! Please, will somebody in the know confirm you don't have to be some large educational institution or venerable museum? ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MMC Monster (602931)

      Free Shuttle parts for the cost of transport?! Please, will somebody in the know confirm you don't have to be some large educational institution or venerable museum? ;)

      Or Bond villain.

    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @02:08PM (#30800198)

      PS. Free Shuttle parts for the cost of transport?! Please, will somebody in the know confirm you don't have to be some large educational institution or venerable museum? ;)

      Confirmed. And if you have Amazon Prime, it's free 2-day shipping.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Endeavor seems a better choice as the "first", actually. Since it's a rebuild structural "airframe" that was used for static tests (so likely before Enterprise), to replenish the fleet with fully capable orbiter after Challenger disaster.

      That is incorrect, you have conflated the histories of two different orbiters. Challenger was built out of a Static Test Article (STA-099). Endeavour (with a 'u') was built to replace Challenger and was made out of structural spares left over from the construction of Discovery and Atlantis. You are also forgetting the Space Shuttle Pathfinder, the first prototype.

      For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbiter_Vehicle_Designation

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A worthy place for Enterprise might be next to the Buran at the http://speyer.technik-museum.de/exhibits/spaceshuttle-buran/sp_610.html [technik-museum.de](Germany). At Sinsheim http://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/node/27 [technik-museum.de], they already have a Russian Tupolev TU-144 and an Air France CONCORDE on display.

    • The perfect place for Enterprise might be next to the Buran at http://speyer.technik-museum.de/exhibits/spaceshuttle-buran/sp_610.html [technik-museum.de]. At http://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/node/27 [technik-museum.de], they have both a Russian Tupolev TU-144 and an Air France CONCORDE on display.
    • In regards to the Enterprise, it was intended to make it into space. The original plan by NASA was to retro-fit the Enterprise to fly into space once the initial landing and approach tests were completed. An older vehicle that was used as a test article was eventually converted into the Challenger, and the Endeavor had a somewhat similar history. Both when the Challenger blew up and the Columbia burned up, the thought of finishing the job to make the Enterprise fully spaceflight worthy had been brought up, but rejected due to the costs involved in such a conversion. That is certainly much closer to going into space than most other vehicles that I can think of.

      Clearly the Enterprise did fly on its own as an independent vehicle on at least three different occasions, and did contribute significantly to the development of the Space Shuttle program that we know today. For me, it clearly belongs in any list of shuttles that you could mention, and does count as a prototype by every definition of the word.

      Now if you want to quibble over the Pathfinder, that is one you can certainly debate. That is the vehicle which was used to be a full mock-up of the Shuttle that could be used to train technicians assembling the parts of the Shuttle and to check ground clearances for moving the Shuttle around if they just wanted to see if it could fit or not. It certainly seems better to screw up on a cheap hunk of steel that won't ever go into space than to make a mistake on a vehicle that cost over a billion dollars to build in the first place. That hunk of steel was never intended to go into space at any time, and barely looks like a Shuttle.

      • by wiredlogic (135348) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:58PM (#30801640)

        The vehicle designators reveal the original plans for the orbiters and test articles. They are:

        MPTA-098 non-flight worthy mockup Pathfinder (Its current appearance is largely decoration added after the fact)
        STA-099 became OV-099 Challenger
        OV-101 Enterprise (The first of the orbital vehicle series. Originally intended to undergo the conversion STA-099 went through)
        OV-102 Columbia
        OV-103 Discovery
        OV-104 Atlantis
        OV-105 Endeavour

        It was determined that it would be cheaper to make Challenger out of STA-099 rather than perform the necessary upgrades to bring Enterprise up to space flight worthiness. Only cost concerns prevented it from becoming an operational shuttle.

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      A failed prototype is still a prototype.

  • What's the millage on those things? And how many MPG does it get?

    • I'm guessing millimeters per gallon is a more fitting unit in this case.
      • Not really. The shuttle is like the ultimate dragster; it uses literal tons of fuel to get up to speed, but once it's there, it just coasts for thousands of miles.

        I mean really, how many other reusable vehicles out there can accelerate from zero to almost 18,000MPH in 8 minutes flat? Where else are you going to get the Mach 25 experience?
    • by imsabbel (611519)

      Better than you may expect.

      Just add up how much distance it is crossing while orbiting the earth...

  • by 2phar (137027) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @01:56PM (#30800112)
    We dont want this [pbs.org] happening again..
    • That's a good point. I don't see why they just don't truck it over to Norton Sales [nortonsalesinc.com] and just put the stuff where everything else is. There has to be an advantage to having a single 'space junkyard' rather than having crap strewn across the planet.
      • by onepoint (301486)

        here i am thinking, How could I scrap one of these shuttles, I get free delivery and the scrap metal value must be in the millions, but if I part it out, I bet I could get 50 million in sales. do some creative marketing and I could sell off the entire ship in little cubes to everyone in the USA for 9.95 plus shipping.

        then I see the video above, what really has to happen is that everything should be digitized in 3d so that the parts could be replicated and stored for everyone to have access too in the future

        • Too late! (Score:1, Troll)

          by Suzuran (163234)
          Too late, the flight software source code and main engine plans have already been destroyed by the US government to prevent any later administration from restarting the program.
          • by couchslug (175151)

            "Too late, the flight software source code and main engine plans have already been destroyed by the US government to prevent any later administration from restarting the program."

            Citation needed.

          • by 2phar (137027)
            Umm.. you mean like this [ibiblio.org]?
            • by onepoint (301486)

              that code was the best documented code I have ever seen in my life !!!

              I almost understood all of it and I could deduce what was going on...

              damm that was good coding.

        • by vlm (69642) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @03:40PM (#30800924)

          How could I scrap one of these shuttles

          I don't know about this specific deal, but I do know about several artifact deals like this, and generally you never own it. You just have a semi-perpetual lease. The lease voids and you must return the artifact unless certain conditions are met, like the artifact must be generally accessible to the public, must be indoors in a climate controlled environment, must be maintained by professional conservators (not the janitor or handyman), must submit an annual report meeting the satisfaction of some military historical/conservation office, etc. Often there are restrictions on control by for-profit companies, and restrictions on commercial advertising, especially if the focus of the advertising is the artifact or there is any insinuation of government approval of the advertiser. And then there are the insurance requirements.

          You're not going to be allowed to part the thing out on ebay for fundraising, without really weird special permission. Maybe, if one of the tires goes flat, you could get permission from congress to chop it up, attach sq cm pieces to wood plaques, and sell the plaques, maybe, and it would help if you gave relevant congressmen some free samples.

          I've seen strange word drift with other "ownership" words, the word "owning" means nothing anymore. The majority of the people whom claim they "own" a house are actually renting from the bank via a mortgage. For a good laugh, if you think you "own" your land, try not paying rent (aka property tax) to your local govt for a couple years, and see who really owns "your" land. Then there are the people that say "I built my home" merely meaning they purchased it from the builder as opposed to purchasing from a real estate agent. In some parts of the country, "an apartment" is a rental and in other parts "an apartment" is what most people call a condo, "buying an apartment" is an oxymoron because by definition an apartment is a place you rent. Some places call a condo a "home", in other areas only a free standing single family shack is called a "home".

          Same deal with the shuttles. You're not "buying a shuttle" you're getting a "free" lease with a thousand special conditions, and only paying for delivery. The govt will repossess, at your expense, if you try to do something unapproved with the artifact, or something they'll repossess just because they feel like it.

    • by janwedekind (778872) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @03:37PM (#30800884) Homepage

      This is crazy. It is as if a software engineer instead of implementing a new algorithm would wrap old LAPACK functions written in Fortran, oh wait ...

      • by khallow (566160)

        This is crazy. It is as if a software engineer instead of implementing a new algorithm would wrap old LAPACK functions written in Fortran, oh wait ...

        Redshirt: Captain, the sarcasm meter is pinging off the charts! They could turn on us at any minute!

        Captain: Well, I dunno... maybe it's not a trap this time...I mean not every primitive culture practices code reuse. They could be sincere this time.

        *Redshirt get swarmed and eaten by cannibalistic, blue-skinned pygmies. His pitiful screams quickly die off.*

        Captain: Eat my LAPACK powered phaser beams!

  • Eternal fame and fortune await the first of us to privately assemble, launch, orbit the earth at least once, and return safely.

    • I highly suspect they will NOT sell it with the giant rocket required for take off. Of course, if you're shelling out for the vehicle, rocket and launch platform gear is nothing, eh?

      • by hanabal (717731)

        It only costs NASA around half a billion per launch. Of course they already have the infrastructure in place but that can't be too expensive.

        • by lennier (44736)

          Well obviously you'll want to retrofit a modern antigravity warp gradient generator into the thing as the actual propulsion core, and hack up some custom nanotech to manage the environmental controls. Trying to rebuild a fully-functional vintage chemical launch system with period 20th century technology would be just silly...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SharpFang (651121)

      The problem is getting these to orbit costs more than any of them whole.

      Likely, you'd be better off designing one from scratch. That's why they are getting scrapped too...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'll take two.

  • paint them black and ming the merciless will buy the whole fleet.
  • Isn't Barrett jackson holding another collector's auction next week? If people are willing to pay millions for an old car the space shuttle should be a hit!
  • by EsJay (879629) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @02:20PM (#30800272)
    Does this mean they rejected all the existing bids? I thought about 20 applied, including:
    National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton OH
    Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, NYC
    Kennedy Space Center, Florida
    Space Center Houston
    Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, Oregon
    Tulsa Air and Space Museum
    Museum of Flight, Seattle
    Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center, Downey CA
    Air Force Flight Test Center Museum, Edwards AFB, CA
    San Diego Air and Space Museum
    Palmdale Plant 42, CA
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fatal67 (244371)

      If Kennedy wants it, they should get it.

    • I'm surprised the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago didn't go for it. This is right up its alley.
      • by greenlead (841089)
        I sent them an email asking about this, but I haven't gotten a reply yet. The MSI is the most convenient tech museum to me (NE Indiana), and I love going there.
  • How about uniting one with a Buran:
    http://speyer.technik-museum.de/node/649 [technik-museum.de]
    Admitted, the cost of transporting it to Germany might be significant...
  • Is already on display. I don't think it is going anywhere. It is at the Udzar Hazey Annex to the Air and Space Museum. Though it would be cool for the main downtown site to have on that actually went into space.

    • by EsJay (879629)
      I think the plan is swapping for Discovery, the Enterprise will go to some other museum.
  • As I'm into house automation and such, I mostly work for filthy rich people. And those people really buy lots of incredibly expensive unuseful crap like hand-made custom choppers to display in their living room (I'm a biker and that pains me), castles as country house, Juan Miró paintings for the crapper and such.

    If I was that rich, I'll *ride* the chops and I'll certainly never miss the opportunity of having my own space shuttle on my back yard. Don't you too?

    --
    El Guerrero del Interfaz

    • by vlm (69642)

      If I was that rich, I'll *ride* the chops and I'll certainly never miss the opportunity of having my own space shuttle on my back yard. Don't you too?

      filthy rich guy implies a trophy wife.

      trophy wife is probably incompatible with our preferred decor.

      Even a typical standard issue wife is borderline incompatible with my typical guy collection of ham radio gear, metalworking tools, electronics stuff, and computer parts. More, or higher class, versions of the same stuff would be even less wife approved. I may feel a full size professional grade SMD hot air rework station with a shelf full of accessories would be a vast improvement over my old traditional s

      • by shiftless (410350)

        Pro tip: when you're that rich, what the wife thinks doesn't matter. If she doesn't like your hobbies you ditch her and try the next in line.

    • by srussia (884021)

      Juan Miró paintings for the crapper and such.

      I guess you did Juan Antonio Roca's house then.

  • $28 million would buy a lot of LEGOs- who will build the first full scale shuttle replica?
  • So now the engines are available, along with other shuttle artifacts, for the cost of transportation and handling.

    I wonder if you could make lamps, phone holsters and other geek baubles from the recycled parts and sell them with a certificate of authenticity that they were made from space shuttle parts?

    I've got a two story garage already set up for metal fabrication...hmmmm.

  • Hopefully it has a working bathroom...
  • ... and it is possible that the Enterprise, a shuttle prototype that never made it to space, will also be available.

    Really, the Enterprise? And does Mr Pickens suppose that the National Air and Space Museum [si.edu] will give it back to NASA so that it can be sold? Somehow I find that highly unlikely.

    • by tsotha (720379)
      It might not belong to the museum. It wouldn't at all be unusual for the ship to be on loan at NASA's pleasure.
  • Vegas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by soundguy (415780) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:51PM (#30801570) Homepage

    This thing really needs to be sitting in the middle of a Las Vegas casino. They could line it with slot machines and run high-stakes card games in the cargo bay.

  • Whoever wrote this didn't do their work...the smithsonian already owns the Enterprise: http://www.nasm.si.edu/UdvarHazy/ [si.edu]

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      There is nothing on that page to suggest that they own the shuttle. Could you please provide a citation that explains under what terms they have acquired it, proving that it is not on loan?

  • Put one one the east coast(Aeronautics museum is right), one on the west coast (SD or Boeing's), and one in the middle (say Denver's Aeronautical). We need kids to get interested in Space again.
  • How would this compare with a SU-27 for $5Mil?

    Personally, I can find a place to garage the SU-27. But they don't have room for a Shuttle, and you're not going to toll around Mesa in one. The SU-27, OTOH, that I can see buzzing the orchards around here. I'll have to sell a kidney for 3 hours of fuel, and sell my wife for ground school but hey, it's doable. The Shuttle, I need 2 more guys and a relly big candle to get it up high enough to just turn around and crash-land.

    So it's the SU-27. Fair deal.

  • by smash (1351)
    • Replace windows with LCDs
    • Install x-plane
    • Play authentic shuttle sim

    :D

  • mmm.. I'm sure there are a few Star-trekkie fans just itching to get there hands on the 'real enterprise!' ..
  • We already know that Doohan is going to pick up one of these babies, get it working again to save spike with. duhhh....

    Also, at that shipping price it is way easier to buy land right beside NASA...

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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