Space shuttles (slightly used) — now on sale!

SpaceShuttleForSaleWASHINGTON — With more than 100 million miles apiece on the odometer, NASA’s Endeavour and Atlantis space shuttles are well-used — but lovingly cared for.

And now they’re on sale.

NASA announced Friday that it was slashing the price for the  orbiters to $28.8 million apiece to help encourage buyers from schools and museums to snap them up once the agency retires the shuttle fleet at the end of the year. In December 2008, NASA put the per-shuttle price at $42 million.

“Our intent is to have them displayed in the United States and have them shown to as many citizens as possible,” said NASA spokesman Michael Curie, who said it was unlikely that oil tycoons or dot-com billionaires would win the bid  for that reason.

‘The intent is not for NASA to make money,”  Curie said.

He said the original price tag was higher because NASA wanted prospective buyers — rather than the agency itself — to pay to make the orbiters safe for display. NASA now plans to do that work and cut the price as a result.

Willing buyers, however, still are responsible for shipping and handling.

About 20 prospective buyers have expressed interest so far, Curie said, and customers have until Feb. 19 to submit their bids. If everything goes smoothly, NASA expects the two orbiters could be in place by July 2011.

The National Air and Space Museum already has laid claim to Discovery, the third and final orbiter in the shuttle fleet. It already has the test shuttle Enterprise — which never flew into space — on display, and Curie said NASA could help the museum unload Enterprise to another prospective buyer if officials wanted to and if there was interest.

“But that’s a lot of ifs,” Curie said.

Kennedy Space Center has said it wants one of the orbiters for display at its visitor’s center.


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