Issaquah astronaut spearheaded museum’s shuttle effort
April 12, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 11:45 a.m. April 12, 2011
NASA did not select The Museum of Flight as a site for a retired space shuttle Tuesday, despite a yearslong effort to land a coveted orbiter.
Bonnie Dunbar, a retired astronaut and Issaquah resident, led the effort to secure a shuttle for the museum.
Instead, the Seattle museum is due to receive a full-fuselage space shuttle trainer for the 15,500-square-foot Space Gallery under construction. Dunbar and every other shuttle astronaut used the trainer to prepare for space flight.
“The new Space Gallery and Aviation High School building will be invaluable and significant additions to The Museum of Flight and will continue to grow our reputation as one of the premier air and space education institutions in the nation,” Dunbar said in a statement released after NASA announced the shuttle recipients Tuesday morning.
Other artifacts planned for exhibition in the gallery include moon rocks and other spacecraft.
“The new Space Gallery and Aviation High School building will serve as a beacon to both youth and young adults, and help add to the more than 140,000 individuals that are already served annually by the museum’s on-site and outreach educational programs,” Dunbar added.
Gov. Chris Gregoire noted the local connection to the shuttle trainer in acknowledging the NASA announcement.
“The full fuselage trainer, that every astronaut including Bonnie Dunbar has been trained on, will soon call The Museum of Flight home,” Gregoire said in a statement. “The largest of the trainers, this addition will allow visitors to actually climb aboard the trainer and experience the hands-on training that astronauts get. Visitors will not be allowed in the other shuttles and this trainer is a true win for our dynamic museum. It will help inspire young people to the adventure of space and to the excitement of a career in science, technology, engineering and math.”
Dunbar, a Washington native, stepped down as the museum’s president and CEO last year to serve as executive director for Wings Over Washington, a museum affiliate established to recognize the aerospace industry in the Evergreen State, and to spearhead the shuttle-acquisition effort.
The museum started construction last June on the gallery to house a retired shuttle and other space artifacts
NASA announced Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the California Science Center in Los Angeles and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City as shuttle recipients. The orbiter Discovery is bound for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The Museum of Flight’s high-profile bid received support from Washington’s congressional delegation. Gregoire and state legislators called on NASA to choose The Museum of Flight, too. Last June, King County Council members passed a measure to support the effort.
“While we are happy for the cities which have been awarded one the retiring space shuttles, we are thrilled to receive the full-fuselage shuttle trainer,” Doug King, The Museum of Flight’s president and CEO, said in a release. “Not only is it a unique and exciting educational artifact to have as a centerpiece of our Space Gallery, but, unlike the actual shuttles, we will be able to allow the public to walk inside it and actually see where the shuttle astronauts trained.”