On this lunchtime bike ride I saw an unusual sign as I was riding past the headquarters for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), located at 300 E Street (MAP) in D.C.’s Southwest neighborhood. It reads, “NASA Shuttle Parking Only. Unauthorized Vehicles subject to Ticket or Tow.” So naturally I assumed that the parking space was being reserved for one of the remaining manned launch vehicles from NASA’s now-retired Space Shuttle Program. And not wanting to miss an opportunity to see a piece of history, I decided to wait around to see one of the space shuttles as it pulled up to park in the reserved space.
As I waited, I began to wonder which one it would be; Endeavour, Enterprise, Atlantis or Discovery. But then I realized that after completing an unprecedented 12-mile drive on city streets from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center, Endeavor has been on display there ever since. And I know that there are no plans to move it. In fact, an addition to the California Science Center, named the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, is currently under construction to permanently house Endeavor. But it was still possible that Enterprise, Atlantis or Discovery would drive up and park, so I decided to wait a while longer.
As time continued to pass, I started to get a little discouraged. But I continued to wait. And it was while I was waiting, however, that I realized Enterprise is on permanent display in New York City at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum’s Space Shuttle Pavilion. Atlantis is part of the Space Shuttle Exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex on Merritt Island, Florida, where it is on permanent display. And Discovery is on permanent display in nearby Chantilly, Virginia, at the National Air and Space Museum’s annex at Washington Dulles International Airport, named the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Discovery is located only 30.2 miles from my office, but that’s still a little too far to go, at least on this bike ride.
Realizing that all of the space shuttles are on permanent display in other locations, I finally gave up and decided to leave. It was then, as I was getting back on my bike, that a bus pulled up, picked up some employees, and then left. It turns out that NASA provides a shuttle bus service to transport employees to locations of other NASA offices and off-site locations throughout D.C. So I rode back to my office a bit disappointed that the NASA Shuttle I got to see was not one of the ones which had been to space, but rather a passenger bus. It’s always good to get out of the office, though. So I still consider today’s bike ride a success.