The final countdown is under way for NASA's shuttle program. OK, the clock has been ticking for awhile. It just didn't feel real until Discovery came back down to Earth.
But Discovery still has one big trip left: a museum. Several institutions are hoping to land the shuttle permanently. My hometown of Houston estimates such an exhibit would bring in $45 million annually for the local economy.
Houston has an online pitch to "Bring the Shuttle Home." But I'm bracing for disappointment. Let's face it... Houston doesn't win a lot. Just ask any sports fan in the city. We won the NBA championships in 1994 and 1995... and no national titles since. (I'm not counting the MLS or WNBA.)
Want more tales of sports suffering? How about the Astros getting swept in their one and only World Series appearance? Or, more painful still, the team formerly known as the Houston Oilers making the Super Bowl shortly after moving to Tennessee.
Unfortunately for Johnson Space Center, two of its competitors are in even more miserable sports cities: Seattle and Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian looks like a shoo-in to get one of the three shuttles in need of homes. And Seattle's Flight Museum has already started building a shuttle gallery.
Of course, I'm not saying this decision is going to be based on sports in any way. But I imagine jobs may be a factor. Nearly 9,000 NASA employees are being laid off as the shuttle program ends. Many of those people work in Houston and Cape Canaveral, Florida. A shuttle attraction could create more than 750 new jobs. It would be nice to see one of those cities get that boost.
NASA is expected to announce its decision on April 12. That is a meaningful date. Exactly 30 years earlier, Columbia became the first shuttle to ever orbit Earth. It will also mark the 50th anniversary of the first human in space. And one week later, on April 19, Endeavour is set to make its final flight. I know I'll be sad to see it go.