The upside of not getting a space shuttleNot surprisingly, there has been much gnashing of teeth about Houston being denied a retired space shuttle to exhibit. And as a Houstonian, I'm certainly disappointed. But let's step back a bit and understand the logic of the decision and even the upsides for Houston.
First, and most obvious, Space Center Houston won't have to spend the required tens of millions of dollars to exhibit the shuttle, which would have certainly boosted ticket prices and possibly even cut attendance by price-sensitive families.
Second, Space Center Houston already has a complete mock-up of the cockpit and nose of the shuttle, and JSC has a mock-up of the entire shuttle that I believe is part of the tour. I accept that's not the same as a complete, real one, but if kids (and adults) want to learn about the shuttle, we're certainly not lacking of exhibits in that department.
Third, would the boost to tourism really be all that large? If people are interested in space, they're going to visit Space Center Houston - even if only to see an awe-inspiring Saturn V rocket. I can't imagine many people blowing it off simply because it lacks a full-size, real, retired space shuttle. The whole, comprehensive package of exhibits is an impressive draw as-is. On the margins, people will choose to either visit SCH or not, and a space shuttle - or lack thereof - won't change the decision.
Fourth, let's not forget that the most important thing that NASA - and therefore JSC and Houston - needs is public support. If the citizens don't support it, it's not going to get the resources it needs to survive and thrive, and that support has been flagging in recent years. We need these shuttles to be exposed to the absolute maximum number of people possible, including the next generation of kids. NYC, DC, LA, and Florida do that (and they are willing to spend big money on spectacular displays). NYC and LA are the two largest metros in the country (by far), and will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from both coasts and across the country. The DC Smithsonian is a no-brainer, and will generate huge exposure. And while the Midwest is complaining loudly about not getting one, let's face it: almost everybody in the Midwest goes to Florida on a regular basis every winter. If they want a chance to see a shuttle, they're certainly going to get it. And let's get realistic ourselves: most of the citizens of this country are going to visit NYC, LA, DC, or Florida long before they ever put Houston in their vacation plans. We're a great city, but let's not fool ourselves that we're a national tourist destination (but at least we're not Dayton, Ohio! ;-)
Yes, it's still a bit disappointing. But viewed in context, it's just not that big of a deal, and could even yield some long-term benefits for NASA, JSC, and Houston. And isn't that what we all really care about?