Editor’s note: This story was originally published online at galvnews.com

SPACE CENTER HOUSTON — Someone late Tuesday night tagged Space Center Houston’s space shuttle replica with political and racial graffiti. The replica, dubbed Space Shuttle Independence, sits out front of the visitor center.

In a story first reported by KHOU-TV, a tour bus operator noticed the graffiti. The vandals painted at least one racial slur and “Houston we are the problem” in black paint across the Independence.

Black paint also was sprayed on the replica’s mounts.

Cleanup crews worked throughout the day to remove the graffiti. Space Center Houston spokesman Jack Moore said by Wednesday afternoon, one side of the replica was clean and the rest of the display would be “spick and span” by the end of the day.

“From what we have been able to see, sometime late (Tuesday night) someone came into the parking lot and using a temporary staircase we have up painted on the shuttle,” Moore said. “It was easy to clean up.”

It doesn’t appear the display, which is undergoing refurbishment and an approaching expansion, had any other damage, Moore said.

The Precinct 8 Harris County constable’s office is investigating the vandalism, Moore said.

Space Center Houston has around-the-clock security, but the patrol was elsewhere on property when the tagger struck, Moore said. The center also has video surveillance that appears to have captured the vandal or vandals. 

The Independence was a consolation prize of sorts for the Johnson Space Center after the space shuttle program was retired. The three remaining space shuttles were sent to museums in New York, California and Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Independence, a mock-up that once was on display at Kennedy Space Center and called the Explorer, was sent to Houston after the home of Mission Control was snubbed from getting the real thing.

The shuttle replica is scheduled to be mounted on a Boeing 747 shuttle carrier and displayed outside Space Center Houston sometime next year.

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com. This story provided in partnership with KHOU-TV.

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