In The Market For A Very Large Garage? Call NASA.

NASA is facing a conundrum of large proportions; shuttle-sized, in fact. Now that the shuttle program has ended, NASA is no longer using shuttle facilities and equipment. That includes everything from a launch pad to space in the building where rockets were assembled. So NASA is conducting a secret auction. Orlando Sentinel staff writer Scott Powers explains what NASA is selling, why, and who the buyers might be.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

If you're in the market for a garage, a very large garage, say big enough to hold a space shuttle, well, you're in luck. A year and a half after the last shuttle landed, NASA is seeking renters or buyers for some of its shuttle facilities and equipment. That includes a hangar and even the launch pad of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Scott Powers is with us to tell us more about this unusual auction. He wrote about it for the Orlando Sentinel. Hi there, Scott.

SCOTT POWERS: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: So basically, NASA is selling off anything that was made just for the shuttle program. Is that correct?

POWERS: Yeah. It's - most of the leased facilities are actually for rent at this point. They're everything from a parachute packing plant. There's an array of radar stations. There's a couple of buildings out there that are used to refurbish and install shuttle tiles. Those kinds of things have a lot of specialized equipment in them and they can be used for other things, I suppose. But NASA realizes their money is going to run out for these facilities soon, and they figured that they need to get partners to continue their use or shut them down and padlock them. They'd rather find partners.

CORNISH: So let's talk about that launch pad for a minute. Given that the shuttle program is over, who's going to want to use that?

POWERS: Probably no one. The problem is with all of the government launch pads out there, there are a lot of hoops that a private space company would have to jump through to use it. A lot of private industry would rather have their own launch pad out there. And there's some talk about building a private launch pad out there someday. And if that were the case, then many of those would work together with a new launch pad.

CORNISH: So other than commercial space flight companies, who else would want to buy some of this stuff? Who are the potential customers?

POWERS: Well, for example, one of the big things out there is the shuttle landing facility, which is basically a runway. It's 15,000 feet long. It's 300 feet wide. It's enormous. You can land any known air or spacecraft in the world there that can land horizontally, which means that it also has some appeal to non-space air traffic. Well, we're not seeing, you know, see that turned into an airport or anything like that. Right now, by the way, that strip has been used for all sorts of things, from testing NASCAR cars to - I understand there was recently an experimental vehicle that was running down that as a drag strip more than as a landing facility.

CORNISH: So in the future, will Kennedy Space Center be completely transformed into essentially a rental space?

POWERS: You know, there are a lot of people who'd like to see that happen because what that would mean is a lot of private rocket launches from there and a lot of jobs. And a lot of those jobs were lost a couple of years ago when the space shuttle program shut down. So people are thinking, you know, if this becomes a private space port in five or 10 years, and you see all sorts of private rockets going up, maybe that replaces the economy that was there under NASA during the shuttle program.

CORNISH: Scott Powers covers NASA for the Orlando Sentinel. Scott, thank you.

POWERS: Thanks so much, Audie.

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