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Originally published Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 3:41 PM

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Museum of Flight deserves to showcase a space shuttle

The Seattle Times editorial board argues that Seattle's Museum of Flight is one of the best places in the United States to show off one of the space shuttles.

THREE museums will be given a space shuttle next year, when the shuttles are retired. Seattle's Museum of Flight should be one of them.

Aerospace is in Seattle's blood. We design and build jet aircraft. Seattle developed the shuttle's heat-shielding tiles, at the University of Washington. Seattle has made its Museum of Flight one of the finest aircraft museums in the country — because flight is something people care about here. We have an astronaut, Bonnie Dunbar, as president of the museum.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is insisting that all applicants have a space ready for a shuttle by July 2011. The Palmdale, Calif., people offer a hangar. The New York people have a barge. Seattle's Museum of Flight has broken ground on a beautiful glass building.

Seattle is serious about this.

NASA wants its shuttles to produce an educational benefit. All museums talk about how students are welcome. The Seattle area has Aviation High School, which specializes in math and science. It graduates 98 percent of its students. The school is an old building now, but has plans to move next to the Museum of Flight, where the shuttle can inspire students who see it every day.

That is value — for NASA and the nation.

NASA wants its shuttles to be seen. Seattle's Museum of Flight has an international audience. It draws from the Pacific Northwest and also from California, British Columbia and increasingly from Japan, Korea and China. Seattle is closer to East Asia than any city in the Lower 48 states — a connection that will be even more important in this century.

Seattle is not Chicago or New York. But to them, a shuttle would be just another thing. Here, it would be part of our identity.

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