Nasa announces US museums to receive space shuttles

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Nasa is to send three retired space shuttles to museums in California, Florida and suburban Washington.

Discovery heads to the Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, Atlantis to Florida's Kennedy Space Center, and Endeavour to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Also, the prototype Enterprise, which never flew in space, goes to the Intrepid museum in New York City.

Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said each shuttle had "stories to tell".

"Take good care of our vehicles," said Mr Bolden, a former astronaut who flew four times on the shuttle. "They have served you well."

Twenty-one institutions around the country sought the retired craft, but at a ceremony with shuttle staff in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Mr Bolden quipped Nasa had only four to go round.

Two shuttles did not survive the programme.

In January 1986, the Challenger disintegrated during launch, killing all seven crew aboard. The Columbia, the first shuttle ever to fly into space, was destroyed while approaching landing in 2003, also killing the seven crew members.

The announcement in Florida came on the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight and on the 50th anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to orbit the earth.

The shuttle programme is nearing an end, with only two flights remaining.