Engines not included

Business Jet Traveler » February 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009 - 4:00am

With a top speed of more than 17,000 miles per hour, NASA's space shuttles make even the fastest business jets seem slow by comparison-and soon you'll be able to buy one. Better hang onto your airplane, though: When NASA sells its three remaining shuttles-Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour-following their planned 2010 retirement, the craft will be for display purposes only.

While one of the famous orbiters is destined for the Smithsonian, the space agency anticipates that the price for the other two will be at least $42 million apiece, taking into consideration cleaning, decontaminating and preparing the craft for display. Since NASA will not disassemble the shuttles for transport, that estimate also includes a $6 million fee to ferry the craft to the nearest major airport on the back of a modified Boeing 747. The price does not include the shuttles' three main engines, which NASA expects will go for up to $800,000 each, plus shipping. And don't expect to park your shuttle outdoors, if you get one. The space agency will consider only buyers- presumably museums and other institutions- with indoor, climate-controlled display areas.

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“When you get into the larger aircraft it becomes like a hotel, with dozens of staff supporting the plane based in a galley area down below. You have very comprehensive cooking facilities, and on larger aircraft we have looked at theatres, with spiral staircases and a Steinway grand piano. The limitations for what you can put inside a plane are pretty much the limits of physics, and even money cannot always overcome that. Even so, people are still always trying to push [the limits]. ”

-Howard Guy of Design Q, a UK-based consultancy