Shuttles, Turning Sedentary, Leave Pieces Behind for Science and Safety

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — NASA, it seems, is having trouble letting go.

As the agency gets its space shuttles ready to be shipped out to museums, it will not be sending them off lock, stock and barrel. The crews doing the prep work have been flooded with requests to squirrel away parts of the spacecraft for analysis. Valves, flight-control instruments, even the tires and windows — little is safe from the clutches of NASA engineers.

“I’ve got a list of hundreds of items that have to come off the ship,” said Stephanie S. Stilson, who is directing the preparation of the shuttle Discovery for delivery to the Smithsonian Institution next year in what NASA calls its “transition and retirement” program.

In April, NASA named the permanent old-age homes for its shuttles, which have been escorting astronauts to space for 30 years. The Endeavour, which completed its last mission early Wednesday with a pinpoint landing after 16 days in orbit, will bask in glory only briefly before it is groomed for delivery to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The Atlantis, which will make its final flight next month, is destined to live at the visitors’ center here at the space center....

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