Why Houston should fight New York over wooden space shuttle

After an astonishingly arrogant putdown from New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Houston is left with a wooden replica of a space shuttle, while New York, gets a real one.

A (real) shuttle on its way to Virginia. CBS NEWS.com Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Would it really be such a bad thing if Houston declared war on New York?

Sometimes, the Eastern home of many things loud and haughty is so far up itself that one cannot readily distinguish top from bottom. A little Texan governance might, for a while, persuade New Yorkers to become more in touch with down-home realities.

I mention this dream because Houston, which managed the Space Shuttle program for 3 decades, is being given a wooden replica of a space shuttle, while that great home of spaced-out blarney in the East will enjoy the real thing, the space shuttle Enterprise.

This skirmish for a meaningful souvenir of the Space Shuttle program has been going on for some time. As KTRH Radio in Houston reports, last summer New York Senator Charles Schumer offered Houston an astoundingly snooty putdown on the issue.

He said: "I say to the people in Houston, when people all around the world in London and Tokyo and Paris say 'Gee, I can't wait for my trip to Houston', then you can have a shuttle."

There might be one or two people in Houston who are currently thinking: "Gee, I can't wait for my trip to New York to slap that smug grin off Schumer's snide little face."

Houston is attempting -- as only Houston can -- to put a brave and decent face on something that is sitting very deep in Houstonian craws.

It is this weekend holding welcoming party for its wooden shuttle -- a "Shuttlebration." Yes, a marvelous extravaganza where, no doubt, the beer will flow in an attempt to help locals forget that they are looking at an effigy.

Texas Congressman Pete Olson told KTRH that the decision not to give Houston a real shuttle was "a slap in the face. Pure politics."

Surely he means impure politics.

Olson added of New York City: "They have no clue what they've been given." Oh, they have no clue about many things. Silence, for example. Still, Olson promised that he would monitor the performance of the Space Shuttle's exhibit in New York and, if it faltered, he would personally pay for a 747 to fly in and take it back to its spiritual home.

Well, he didn't actually articulate that last part. But I feel sure he thought it.

There are four cities that have been graced with Shuttles. Besides New York, one will be at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va, while the others will reside at The California Science Center in Los Angeles and the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

There is some consolation for Houston in that New York's shuttle is something of a fake too. Its Enterprise is a test orbiter that never actually flew in space.

Some might, indeed, find humor in the idea that some of New York's enterprise doesn't really fly very high either, though it is accompanied by a lot of talk.

After the shuttle-awarding process was completed last year, there was talk that Houston's facilities weren't as advanced as those of other competing cities -- which included Dayton, Ohio. There was also talk that Houston had originally been awarded a shuttle and then politics had intervened.

But Houston is a far more progressive place than many might imagine. "Rushmore" was filmed there, for goodness sake. And if you've never tried deer sausage to cure a hangover, then you have clearly neither been to Houston, nor actually lived.

Surely the progressive thing to do about the shuttle isn't merely to have a Shuttlebration -- something that papers over the splinters. Surely Houstonians should find ways to boycott elements from New York.

But there again, Houstonians might wonder what parts of New York have ever made an impact on their own city. Loud-mouthed business people making excessive noise in restaurants, perhaps? Oh, and Wall Street's creation of the financial crisis, of course.

The objective might choose to mention Enron as Houston's equivalent of New York's financial shenaniganing. Ah, but at least someone from Enron actually went to jail.

 

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