No space shuttle? NASA giving away astronaut food and heat tiles
Your city didn’t land a retired space shuttle? NASA is offering other artifacts from the shuttle program, including astronaut meals and heat shield tiles.
Some 350 dehydrated meals -- "not for consumption," NASA advises -- and 3,000 thermal tiles are being offered to schools on a first-come, first-served basis.
"Not only are we preserving a critical part of our nation's history, but we are reusing government property in an unexpected way by giving these NASA artifacts a second life in our nation's schools," Steven J. Kempf, commissioner of the General Service Administration's Federal Acquisition Service, said in a statement.
The items could be consolation for cities that lost out to Los Angeles, New York, Florida and the Washington area in the fierce competition for a shuttle.
There is a shipping and handling charge of $28.03 for a package of food (an entree, dessert and a drink) and $23.40 for a tile.
At least that’s less than the $28.8 million that each shuttle recipient must come up with to cover preparation and delivery costs.
The space agency has lent out tires used on the shuttle landing gear to educational institutions, and it's promised other artifacts to institutions that lost out in the competition for a shuttle. The Johnson Space Center in Houston, for example, will receive shuttle flight deck pilot and commander seats.
Cities due to receive shuttles shouldn’t worry that they will arrive without their protective tiles. A NASA spokesman said the tiles being offered to schools are primarily test tiles.
The tiles are a hot item. A former Kennedy Space Center worker earlier this year came under investigation for allegedly selling at least 12 of the tiles on EBay for about $600 to $800 each.
-- Richard Simon in Washington
Photo: Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson touches the tiles on the shuttle at Kennedy Space Center after the final flight of the U.S. space shuttle program in July. NASA is making available tiles to schools. Credit: Scott Audette / AFP/Getty Images