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New York Wants a Space Shuttle

Red alert, Space Coast: New York is trying to swipe one of the space shuttles.

Armed with impeccable tourism credentials, scores of residents and a lot of political clout, the Big Apple's recruiters are working the back halls of Washington hard to be the retirement home of one of the three orbiters.

The Intrepid Museum aims to house a shuttle orbiter in a glass enclosure near Times Square, promising sky-high exposure.

"Showcasing a genuine space shuttle will not only bring visitors by the millions, it will inspire multitudes to learn, explore and dream of adventure," said Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democrat leading the political lobbying for his home state, in a speech last week. "It is perfect for NASA, too: The agency's explicit goal is to have these magnificent vehicles seen - and their history understood - by the greatest number of people possible."

More than 20 facilities are vying for the three orbiters, one of which already is destined for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington. Space

Space Coast leaders say Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is among the candidates too, hoping to land one of the orbiters near the launch site where tens of thousands of men and women toiled for more than three decades caring for and launching the space shuttles. That may create a sense of entitlement to one of the spaceships, but that won't win this political contest.

The winners are going to be those with political clout, money to pay some of the relocation costs and a pedigree for handling unique aerospace artifacts. New York's team has a Web site, Facebook fan page and online petition. They've staged rallies. They've got political momentum.

NASA is saying publicly that one of its top priorities is making sure the orbiters are in spots accessible to the most possible visitors.

Schumer and his New York cohorts are touting the 1 million people a year who visit the Intrepid, though the private vendor running the KSC complex says it draws 1.5 million.

The competition will heat up with museums from Seattle, Dayton, Ohio, and elsewhere making their cases, in public and in private. Schumer apparently got a chance to talk with the head of NASA about his state's chances not long ago, and he says he got a positive vibe.

"Just yesterday I spoke to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and he has informed me that the Intrepid is in good shape to be the permanent hangar for one of the shuttles," said Schumer, who's been whipping the New York media into a cheerleading frenzy over this.

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