December 28th, 2012
03:58 PM ET

Space Shuttle Atlantis gets ready for display

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.

The museum that will house Atlantis is being built around the orbiter. Last month the vehicle was brought to the Visitor Complex, where it will be put on public display. At that time, three-quarters of the exterior was complete, said Andrea Farmer, senior public relations manager at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Only one wall was incomplete, the one Atlantis entered through, and now that's nearly done too.

With a wing-span of about 80 feet, Atlantis was carefully maneuvered through the 82.5-foot back wall of the incomplete building. Work on the viewing platforms, floors and walls continues as Atlantis sits tightly wrapped and suspended from the ceiling.

The goal of the exhibit is for the visitor to have an experience similar to an astronaut’s view of what Atlantis looked like while in space, Farmer said. The payload doors will be open and the large wall behind it will project an image of what Earth looks like from space.

There will be more than 50 interactive elements in the exhibit, but touching Atlantis will not be permitted. “It’s a priceless artifact," Macy said "We can’t let you touch it."

But parts of the shuttle, including the toilet and living quarters, are being taken out and put on display separately, so "you can get a hands on feel for that," Macy said.

The Atlantis exhibit will be an added attraction to the other space-related features on display at the Visitor Complex.

“It will complement what we already have,” Farmer said, “including the Apollo Saturn 5 center, which tells the moon program story, and the iconic rocket garden, which talks about early space exploration and how we got there with the vintage rockets on display.”

The Atlantis display will be in a 90,000-square-foot facility and cost $100 million to build. It is expected to be open to the public by July 2013.

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Filed under: On Earth
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Kinda reminded of the lyrics "...took all the trees ....put em in a tree museum ....charged all the people ....25 bucks to see em...". It's sad that we place so much emphasis on where we've been...yet no one has a clue about where we're going!

    December 29, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  2. Cybermantis

    The shuttle program was created for the sole purpose of putting spy satellites into orbit for the NRO.
    Anything ELSE it did... was just fluff for the media to have something to report about.
    Just look at the total number of launches, against the number of so-called "science expiraments" it did.
    Those shuttles sure have been busy!
    No need for the SR71 anymore. The "powers that be" can see anywhere in the world, anytime.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • mknopf

      You might want to do a little bit of research before you make these kinds of statements. The purpose of the Shuttle program was to build the International Space Station, delivering each piece and constructing it in orbit. When the ISS was finished the Shuttle was no longer needed as the realm of Low Earth Orbit travel transitions to commercial industry (ever heard of SpaceX or Virgin Galactic?).

      We also have these things called "drones" as well as the X37-B to do all the spying we want, and for a much cheaper price tag.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  3. SLG

    Its not suspended from the ceiling. (com on guys)I work there.

    December 28, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  4. Damien

    What does "put on public display" mean? I took my children to Kennedy Space Center last year and we couldn't even see a rocket without paying an expensive admission charge per person. After all the tax money NASA got from our families over the years, now all they are is an expensive theme park. Nice.

    December 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • darlene egnatios

      It's the on going expensive of housing, protecting, displaying, and employing people that explains additional cost.
      Tax payers money went for the space missions. (I hope the cost to visit the display site for families is affordable.)

      December 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • davetharave

      You want to see stuff for free ?! This is America, the home of pay to play

      December 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • CM

      The Visitor's Center isn't run by NASA, it's run by an independent contractor who's only income is from admissions/sales. No government money is funneled to the VC.

      December 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  5. DC

    Awesome!

    December 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  6. clown

    Why is it still under wraps everyone has already seen it ?

    December 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Michael

      RTFA (Read the Freaking Article) moron.

      December 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
      • nuisance

        LOL!

        December 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  7. dirk waldon

    I will be the first visitor through the door ay the exhibit

    December 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm |

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