A space shuttle's final mission: Atlantis opens to the public (+video)
The much-anticipated Atlantis exhibit - showcasing the last space shuttle to make a mission - will open at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Saturday.
Space shuttle Atlantis will begin one last mission on Saturday – and this is one on which we can join her.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures After the Space Shuttle
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Some 60 displays and interactive simulators in the new, much-heralded exhibit will tell the story of the entire NASA shuttle program, which was closed in 2011. Those shuttles – beginning with the April 1981 launch of shuttle Columbia and continuing with the journeys of shuttles Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour – were the space ambassadors on which Americans pinned their celestial dreams for some three decades.
And so, in the center of it all, is the space shuttle Atlantis.
“Although the multimillion-dollar interactive exhibit encompasses much, much more than the display of Atlantis, there is no denying, she is truly the star of the show,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of the visitor complex. “We know that this majestic beauty, which safely ferried men and women to space and back on 33 successful missions, is the real reason that our guests will travel thousands of miles … to see her in all her glory."
Bathed in purple-blue light, the shuttle’s new 90,000-square-home looks part hanger, part space. Raised some 30 feet off the ground, the shuttle is tilted at a 43-degree angle, as it would be in flight. Its payload doors are open and its robotic arm is extended. Visitors can walk both under and around the shuttle on suspended bridges, like astronauts bobbing around their home.
“Atlantis is on display as she would be normally in flight. It’s the first time ever that a lot of people are going to see her this close,” Tim Macy, director of project development and construction for Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, told Florida Today.