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Atlantis Prepared For Final Voyage

Space shuttle Atlantis was rolled over to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building on Oct. 17, this marked the final move for the orbiter before she travels to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Nov. 2, 2012. Photo Credit: Val Phillips

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – Space shuttle Atlantis is unique among the “three sisters” of NASA’s space-worthy shuttle fleet in that she will not be traveling by air to her new home. Atlantis will traverse the 9.8 miles to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex atop a 76-wheeled Orbiter Transporter System (OTS) vehicle specifically designed to ferry the orbiters to various locations. The move is currently scheduled to take place on Nov. 2. 2012.

The event will be marked with numerous events hosted by both NASA and the operators of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Delaware North Companies. Some of the events will be held at the nearby Exploration Park and others at the Visitor Complex itself.

Although Atlantis has Replica Shuttle Main Engines or RSMEs in place, these consist mostly of just re-purposed engine nozzles and little else. All of the systems that provided the orbiter with her “punch” have been removed in order to make her safe to be around the public. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

Atlantis’ arrival at the Visitor Comples will coincide with the annual Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s autograph show which is being held from Nov. 1-3. Some 34 astronauts, including Moonwalkers and other space flight veterans will be in attendance to sign autographs to raise funds for the foundation’s scholarship efforts.

As with most of NASA-related events a strong effort has been made to incorporate social media into the celebration. A two-day NASA social has been planned to mark the move of Atlantis from the hands of NASA – to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Although they will never be seen by the public, Atlantis’ caretakers wanted her to be as she was when she was a functioning oribter. They have therefore placed plastic inlays over her consoles to simulate what she looked like in flight. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

Twenty eight individuals will be selected to attend the Atlantis social media event – all had to be 18 years old or older and a U.S. citizen. Registration for this event is already closed. Participants will have the opportunity to attend a number of special tours including a “hard hat” tour of Atlantis’ new home. They will get to speak with a variety of experts, so as to better detail their experiences on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Atlantis was moved from Orbiter Processing Facility 2 (OPF 2) to the adjacent Vehicle Assembly Building or VAB as it is more commonly known on Oct. 17. This is the last move planned for the orbiter before she is transported to the Visitor Complex.

Atlantis’ exhibit is set to open during the summer of 2013 and having Atlantis on display so close to where the orbiter launched from, holds special meaning to those who flew on her.

“It will really mean a lot to me to see Atlantis permanently displayed at the Kennedy Space Center—a special meaning, because my last spaceflight was on Atlantis, and due to bad weather in California, we had to extend the flight and eventually land at Kennedy, the first landing back at the Cape in the post Challenger era,” said Robert C. Springer who flew on Atlantis during his second trip to orbit, STS-38. “It was a special moment for the crew and for all of the people who had worked on the program to see a shuttle land back at Kennedy after an absence of almost 4 years. Atlantis belongs at KSC for all to see and remember.”

Video courtesy of AmericaSpace

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