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12 Apr 11. NASA is set to announce on Tuesday final museum berths for its retiring space shuttles, whose mothballing this year will hand over human space transportation to former arch-rival Russia 50 years after the first human space flight. Space and flight museums across the United States have applied to display the shuttles, due to make two more flights this year before the shuttle program is ended. The announcement of the shuttles’ final resting places will be made by NASA administrator Charlie Bolden at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight. Tuesday also marks the 50th anniversary of the pioneering launch in the then Soviet Union of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space. The shuttles to be allocated are Endeavour, now at the launch pad for liftoff on April 29 for its final mission, and Atlantis, being prepared for the 30-year-old shuttle program’s 135th and final flight this summer. A third shuttle, Discovery, completed its final mission last month. Among the institutions hoping to receive the spacecraft are the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center in Florida, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, Houston’s Johnson Space Center, which is NASA’s human spaceflight base. and the Museum of Flight in Seattle, the former headquarters of shuttle builder Boeing. With the shuttles’ retirement, NASA turns over the job of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station, a $100bn project of 16 nations, to Russia, once the United States’ arch rival in the Cold War space race. U.S. dependence on Russian space transportation will end only if commercial companies develop passenger spaceships. A handful, including Boeing, Space Exploration Technologies, Orbital Sciences Corp., Sierra Nevada Corp., and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, are trying. (Source: Reuters)

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