Ever since we moved into a new house with a neighbor who insisted on showing off his 1957 Bel Air
in his driveway, we've been consumed with finding something even cooler to display that would upstage him.
So we were really excited when we learned that NASA was just giving away spaceship engines
(among other things from the soon-to-be discontinued space-shuttle program
) for free, to whomever could take 'em away. But we did have a couple of questions: First, would that be legal? And second, how would we get it home?
We made a few calls to get to the bottom of things and take the first steps to making our dream come true.
Keeping a Space Shuttle Engine in the Driveway
We spoke with a woman in city planning to find out if you could get in trouble for keeping a space-shuttle engine in your yard. She told us (on condition of anonymity, presumably so her boss wouldn't learn that she spent almost an hour researching this with us) that there's no precedent for space-shuttle engines, specifically, nor is there an ordinance about it on the books. She suspected that it'd fall under the same rules as having a car that you're working on in the yard: Namely, that you'd get 60 days before it had to go either behind a masonry fence or in a garage. That was disappointing, but on the other hand, 60 days is plenty of time to upstage the guy with the Chevy.
Getting the Thing Home
We expected that shipping a 7,000-lb., 15-foot-long, 7-1/2-foot-in-diameter space-shuttle engine would cost a fortune, so we got pretty creative in figuring a cheap way to do it. While buying a Dodge Ram 3500 -- rated by Edmunds as the best truck for towing -- and a flatbed trailer, along with hiring 14 professional bodybuilders to load the thing onto the flatbed, seemed like it might be the most cost-effective way to get the engine to us, Susan Rosenberg, a UPS
spokesperson in the Atlanta corporate office, told us that they could do it for (relatively) cheap.
"Supposing that the engine is at Cape Canaveral
, Fla., and that you were taking it to Los Angeles, and that it was on some kind of skid, we could transport it by UPS freight for a total of $2,699," she explained. While that's not couch-cushion money, it's also not outside of the reach of a truly dedicated space-shuttle enthusiast, by any means -- and it's certainly cheaper than a mint-condition Bel Air. Finally, our dream was to come true!
Back to Reality
Unfortunately, after getting off the phone with UPS, we finally got a hold of Mike Curie from NASA, who clarified a few things about the shuttle-engine giveaway.
"There is a screening process," he explained. "We're going to make sure that the artifacts go where the maximum number of people can see them," before going on to say that it was intended for schools and museums and boring crap like that -- not for people who simply want the awesomest lawn decoration possible.
We can grudgingly accept that these things probably should be given to people whose goals for them are slightly more in the spirit of furthering human growth and knowledge, but we're going to make sure the jerk with the car gets his one way or the other.