Mar 22, 2024 - News

St. Cloud could be landing place for full-size Space Shuttle model

An image of a white Space Shuttle with black trim parked next to a large building on a runway under a blue sky. A stepladder is visible near the rear of the craft and fits underneath the wings, giving the impression of its large size.

The Inspiration, a full-scale mockup of the Space Shuttle, parked near Kennedy Space Center's famed Vehicle Assembly Building. Photo courtesy Felicity-John and Irene Pederson.

Downtown St. Cloud could become the new landing spot for a full-scale, NASA-built model of the Space Shuttle.

Why it matters: The Space Shuttle Inspiration never actually went into orbit, but the realistic model of America's venerable space vehicles could still be a headline-grabbing, eye-catching draw for the city's downtown.

What they're saying: Felicity-John Pederson, the inventor who now owns the Inspiration, confirmed to Axios that his hometown has emerged as the most serious contender to host it.

Reality check: State Sen. Aric Putnam, DFL-St. Cloud, told Axios the plan to bring the Inspiration to Minnesota is "not a done deal."

Driving the news: During a conversation about tourist attractions on MPR's Politics Friday, Gov. Tim Walz announced, "Someone wants to give us a Space Shuttle."

  • That's a bit of an oversell. The orbiters that flew in space are all currently on display elsewhere — in Florida, Los Angeles and outside D.C.
  • Walz's comments prompted Putnam to share renderings on X of a facility that could house the Inspiration, located near the soon-to-be-built Great River Children's Museum.
  • He told Axios the effort has been percolating since last fall, prodded along by supportive letters from him and former Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic.
A child in an astronaut helmet and uniform next to an instrument panel and joystick.
Felicity-John Pederson's grandson at the controls of his Space Shuttle mockup, the Inspiration. Photo courtesy of Pederson

Catch up quick: Pederson, a grad of St. Cloud's Apollo High School, doesn't know why NASA built the model, whose crew compartment is so realistic that it even includes a replica toilet system, he said.

  • He acquired it in 2015 from its previous home outside a Florida space camp and refurbished it with plans to move it to a more permanent home.
  • Pederson said he's been keeping it at the Kennedy Space Center, whose managers have been "patient, but they want it out of there."

Zoom in: Cassie Miles has been championing an effort to bring it to St. Cloud after getting connected with Pederson.

  • Miles is the executive director of the new children's museum, but told Axios that she isn't officially acting on behalf of the museum. She's acting out of a sense of "passion for downtown St. Cloud."

The intrigue: Because of the shuttle model's sheer size, "the end result to build a whole museum around it — and all the above —would definitely require public-private partnership," said Putnam.

What's next: Miles estimated the cost of moving the Inspiration at around $750,000. After that, supporters are still deciding among options about where they'd house it.

  • If it doesn't become a centerpiece of the children's museum, or another standalone museum, Miles noted the model is "weather worthy," and could even simply become a roadside attraction.
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