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Hands-on History
Tiles are visible on the underside of the shuttle's nose

After the retirement of the space shuttle, thousands of shuttle thermal protection system tiles will be available to eligible educational institutions. Image Credit: NASA

For more than 30 years, the space shuttle system has made history. From its first flight to the launch and repair of the Hubble Space Telescope, from the dockings with the Russian Mir space station to the assembly of the International Space Station, and much more, the space shuttle has been at the forefront of American human spaceflight.

And now, educators have a unique opportunity to share that history with their students.

NASA is working to complete the International Space Station and retire the space shuttle program within the next year. When that happens, new homes will be needed for the space shuttle orbiters and equipment that was part of the program's infrastructure.

Efforts are underway to find museum homes for the orbiters themselves, but thousands of other items will be available for display in museums, NASA visitor centers and qualified educational institutions. The artifacts range from large space shuttle main engines to small pieces of equipment flown on shuttle missions. For example, about 7,000 tiles from the shuttle's heat shield thermal protection system will be available for distribution.

Enterprise on display in a large hangar

NASA's flight-test orbiter Enterprise is on display in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Image Credit: NASA

Although some items will not be distributed until after the last shuttle mission has flown, many items are already available. In addition, NASA is using the interest spurred by the end of the shuttle program and the resulting transfer of shuttle artifacts to find homes for artifacts from other spaceflight programs.

Artifacts are being made available for transfer to educational institutions through the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980. The act allows for transfer of federally owned research equipment to educational organizations and nonprofit institutions for conduct of technical and scientific education and research activities. More information about the artifacts may be found at the government General Services Administration electronic property management system, GSAXcess.

Institutions receiving the artifacts will be responsible for some costs, such as packaging, preparation and handling fees involved in transferring the items.

After the final flight, there will never be another chance to watch a space shuttle launch into orbit. But through this opportunity, students still will be able to get up-close and personal with pieces of history.

Questions about how to request artifacts should be directed to hq-awg@mail.nasa.gov.

Related Resources
› GSAXcess   →
› NASA Artifact Opportunities and Supporting Educational Materials   →
› NASA Education

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services