TULSA - NASA is retiring the shuttles Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour by early year, and Tulsa is fighting to get one.
So are New York City, Chicago, Dayton, Portland and Seattle, along with the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"Oh absolutely we stand a chance."
Tulsa Air and Space Museum's executive director Jim Bridenstine says Tulsa's location gives it an edge over the competition.
"If you look at them, they're mostly on the east or west coast," said Bridenstine. "We think we can reach a demographic in an area of the country that isn't historically served by NASA."
Bridenstine estimates a million visitors a year will see the shuttle. More visitors mean more hotels, more restaurants and more people spending money. The shuttle represents another revenue source that could provide long term benefits, according to Mayor Dewey Bartlett.
"They'll certainly have something to eat, look around, maybe look at another museum, stay a day or two. It might even be a thoughtful idea to move to Tulsa," said Bartlett.
Overall, the shuttle has the potential to make a $70 million economic impact and create more than a thousand new jobs.
Some of those jobs would be created through the museum's expansion. A building plan was already in the works before the shuttle idea ever came up. But by breaking ground now, Bridenstine wants to show NASA that Tulsa means business.
"We're building to improve the educational capacities of our facility. We just want to make sure when we build it, it's big enough for the space shuttle," Bridenstine said.
The museum's goal is to inspire a new generation of space explorers. Volunteers, like Francis Burke, believe a real-life shuttle will help them accomplish that mission.
Burke himself worked on the Saturn rocket that launched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in 1969. Many parts of that rocket were built in Tulsa.
"I think it would be wonderful. I think Tulsa deserves a shuttle," said Burke.
A decision is expected either by the end of this year or early next year.
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