Encased in 16,000 square feet of shrink-wrap, Space Shuttle Atlantis sits in the middle of a working construction site at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. The plastic coating was placed on the orbiter to protect it from dust and dirt during construction.
“We want to make sure that it is safe," said Tim Macy, director of project development and construction. Macy and colleagues had 95% of the work done above Atlantis before the shuttle rolled in, “so we really reduced the risk of dropping anything on her.”
Atlantis was the last NASA space shuttle to go into space, and the last to be brought to its museum-style resting place this year. Its landing on July 21, 2011, marked the end of NASA's space shuttle program.
From faraway planets to the deepest depths of the ocean, 2012 has been an exciting year for scientific achievements and milestones.
Humans broke previously unimaginable barriers by detecting an elusive tiny particle and free-falling 24 miles from the edge of space. At the same time, we said goodbye to four retired NASA space shuttles that found new museum-type homes.
Here's our list of the biggest science achievements this year, in order of significance:
1. Curiosity lands, performs science on Mars
Every time I hear the word "curiosity" in a sentence, I'm tempted to butt in and ask if you're talking about the Mars rover Curiosity. She's really there! On Mars! Right now! And people are driving it! (Forgive me, I get excited about this.)