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ST. CLOUD – A person can count on two hands how many space shuttles were made by NASA. Five were jolted into outer space — two of which were destroyed during flight — and a few replicas were built for research and training astronauts.

One of those remaining behemoths could come to St. Cloud.

State Sen. Aric Putnam first learned last summer that one of the mock orbiter shuttles was owned by a St. Cloud resident.

"I did what any rational person would do and say, 'That's not true,'' he said with a laugh. "Because no one can own a space shuttle. How is that a thing?"

Apparently, it is a thing. And now, Putnam is on the front lines of the push to get the shuttle to Minnesota, working with the shuttle's owner, Felicity-John Pederson, the city and the director of the children's museum that's slated to open in St. Cloud early next year.

Pederson, 65, is a graduate of St. Cloud's Apollo High School, which boasts a NASA training capsule on its campus. He's also the founder of LVX System, which has a patent for visible light communication — something he worked on with NASA. He and his wife, Irene, spend time in both Florida and Minnesota.

In 2015, the Pedersons sort of stumbled into ownership of the full-size shuttle replica called the Inspiration.

"It was slated to be destroyed. It's in really good condition but it was at the end of its useful life as government goes," Felicity-John Pederson said. "It was going to cost them money so we took it over."

The next year, he transported the six-story-tall orbiter to the shuttle landing runway at Kennedy Space Center using a massive crawler-transporter vehicle. Though the shuttle is a replica, it features realistic spaces where astronauts could cook, sleep and bathe, and a model flight deck with controls.

"You can hardly tell the difference," Pederson said. "It is absolutely the most realistic replica produced."

The first shuttle launched in 1981. NASA ended the shuttle program in 2011 with more than 130 missions flown. The Columbia shuttle was destroyed when entering the atmosphere and the Challenger disintegrated after launch, both incidents claiming the lives of seven crew members.

The other shuttles that saw outer space are now on display on the coasts: the Discovery is in Washington D.C., the Atlantis is at Kennedy Space Center and the Endeavor is in Los Angeles. The Enterprise, a prototype orbiter that didn't fly but paved the way for the shuttle program, is on display in New York. And another replica, called the Independence, is on display atop a shuttle carrier airplane in Houston.

"The space shuttles — the ones that were out in space — they are beautiful to look at, of course. And historic. Very majestic," Pederson said. "But you can't touch them."

The Pedersons invested about $600,000 into the Inspiration with the intention of someday donating it to a museum — to let it be touched, be toured, be gazed at in awe. But that time came sooner than anticipated.

The runway where the Inspiration currently sits is now being used by the government agency Space Florida, which works with commercial space companies such as Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Last fall, Space Florida told Pederson he needed to move the shuttle as soon as possible to make way for the expansion of the commercial companies. So Pederson is scrambling to get plans in place to transport, store and ultimately display the shuttle.

Cassandra Miles, executive director of Great River Children's Museum in St. Cloud, is helping bring awareness to the project. By connecting it to the museum as a possibility for a future building or exhibit, she's hoping the shuttle coming to St. Cloud seems more tangible in the eyes of officials and philanthropists.

Miles said a project of this magnitude would typically take many years.

"We don't have the luxury of that sort of time," she said.

Pederson estimates it will cost about $1 million to dismantle, move and reassemble the shuttle, and another $500,000 for a temporary dome facility to store the shuttle until a permanent structure can be built.

"There's automatically that upfront cost where you go, 'OK, this could be a sunk cost if we get it here and it turns out there isn't the support we believe there is," Miles said. "But it seems like a minimal risk to take knowing the possibility."

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, at the helm of a separate push to reinvigorate downtown, said he thinks the shuttle would be a great attraction for downtown that would draw people from across the state and country.

Putnam said he thinks the shuttle could spur the city to become a sort of epicenter of aviation and STEM education and, in turn, inspire the next generation of pilots and scientists.

He's hoping to get the shuttle up here as soon as possible. He's been in talks with a union of crane operators who could help take apart and rebuild the shuttle, local trucking companies that could donate resources and even an airline that might be willing to partner on the project.

"If we don't have it here, people aren't going to believe that it's real," he said.

That general disbelief that a shuttle could potentially touch down in St. Cloud is part of what's driving Putnam to make this plan a reality.

"There's something about how what a big, weird lift this is and [how] everyone is going to say, You can't do it. It can't happen,'" he said. "I want to say, 'That's what they said about space, right?'"