Shuttle decision not flawed, but still wrong.

There was once a fellow who found a rare gold coin, but knew he couldn’t keep it. He considered what to do with it, and came up with two options: he could give it to his friend – the coin collector – who loved such things for their rarity and beauty, or he could turn it over to his rich friend who had a vault and could store it.

The collector had some nice things, but nothing that would compare to the rare gold coin. It would become a treasure among the other rarities – something to be proudly displayed and shown off to friends and visitors.

The rich man had so many similar items that he had little time to even inventory his horde, but he had lots of employees and acquaintances that would stumble across the rare coin during their regular forages through the vaults and various lockboxes.

In the end, the fellow who discovered the coin gave it to the rich man. He believed that more people would eventually have an opportunity to see it, given the bustle of activity surrounding the rich man’s enterprises. The rich man had promised to one day make a showcase and display it along with his other wealth.

The coin collector was heartbroken. Although he loved the many treasures he held, the rare gold coin would have been the centerpiece of his collection. He would have immediately placed all his efforts into making a showplace to display the piece, and then would have sent invitations far and wide to bring people in to see its beauty for themselves.

In fact, the rarity is the NASA space shuttle fleet, now retired and headed for museums. In a decision that has confounded many, the special team that considered the options voted to send the shuttles to New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Cape Canaveral. Three of the four will reside on the east coast, and the fourth will be sent to the west coast.

Two will be within an afternoon’s driving distance of each other, in Washington and New York.

Inspector General Paul Martin released the results of his inquiry into the decision-making process, and says that no improprieties were found, although a scoring error actually placed Dayton, Ohio on a par with Cape Canaveral. The criteria for scoring points was said to be an impartial way to judge bids for the shuttles.

NASA chief Charles Bolden says he would have picked the same cities regardless of the scoring error, since they had “bigger populations and more international visitors.” That is to say, although the bidding criteria scored Dayton, Ohio – a city in the MidWest – on a par with the Florida location, Bolden chose Florida just because of population.

Here’s a thought. Population doesn’t determine the number of visitors to an attraction. How many people live in the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone Park?

Houston and Dayton wanted a shuttle, just like Tulsa did. They asked for an investigation into the bidding process.

Regardless of whether the scoring team followed the rules, the decision was incorrect. No international visitors have the time to see all the attractions in New York on a single visit as it is – adding another major attraction may broaden the appeal, but it simply dilutes the attendance for each destination.

Showcasing a one-of-a-kind treasure in a museum that would have truly appreciated its value, placing it in an unhindered spotlight, would have increased the value of the retired shuttle.

The coastal bias based on a belief that the interior of the US is filled with rubes and squatters who cannot possibly appreciate anything of value comes from the same people who said the world-class Crystal Bridges Museum was siphoning off art treasures.

The northwestern Arkansas museum created by Alice Walton will be an incredible addition to the art world, no matter its location. Locating it in the MidSouth makes it all the more visible as a treasure.

As visible as a space shuttle in Tulsa, Oklahoma would have been.

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