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For sale: Used space shuttles. Asking price: $42 million apiece


In the market for a used space shuttle? You're in luck. If, that is, you happen to have a spare $42 million—and are a U.S. educational institution, federal agency, state or municipality.

NASA yesterday released info about its shuttles' post-retirement plans and put out feelers to gauge interest from potential buyers. (The shuttle program is currently scheduled to end in 2010.) The agency estimates it will cost $42 million to detoxify the fuel systems and conduct other "safing" measures, prep the orbiter for indoor display and transport it by air to its final destination. NASA says it may cost more to reach far-flung locations requiring a long-distance haul "over public roadways which may require removal of light posts and traffic signals or transport by barge over water." The shuttles, after all, have a 78-foot wingspan, about as broad as 11 Hummers.

NASA has just three shuttles, Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery, in its fleet. And, according to the space agency, one of those orbiters is likely bound for the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., leaving only two up for grabs.

For those organizations looking for a piece of the action but financially strapped, NASA offers a lower-priced option: six to 10 decommissioned shuttle engines will also be made available at the low, low price of $400,000 to $800,000 each—plus shipping and handling.

Image credit: NASA/Tom Tschida

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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