Atlantis – Celebrate the Journey is the name of the event held to commemorate the move of Space Shuttle Atlantis from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to its final destination at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where she will be displayed in a new $100 million, interactive exhibit complex scheduled to open in July of 2013.
NASA and the operators of the Visitor Complex, Delaware North Companies, have prepared a wide range of events and activities for the public and the media. As the orbiter takes its nearly 10 mile journey to its new home, guests will be able to meet a number of astronauts, including the final crew to take the orbiter aloft.
The new building is about 60 percent complete, with just its east wall section missing. After Atlantis completes its trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the Visitor Complex she will be rolled into her new home through this opening in the wall. Once inside, the construction team will immediately begin enclosing the opening to protect Atlantis from the elements. A protective wrap will be installed over the orbiter as added protection.
This stands in contrast to the test article version of the shuttle, Enterprise. The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum had placed Enterprise in what was, essntially, a balloon. This inflatable structure lost power during Hurricane Sandy, it was pierced, leaving the shuttle exposed to storm. A chunk of the orbiter’s stabilizer was torn off. This was the second time that Enterprise has been damaged while in New York. During its arrival, its wing was dragged along a bridge and a portion of the wing was shredded off.
The director of the project for Delaware North Corp., Tim Macy, explained that most of the important overhead work on the inside of the building has been completed before Atlantis arrival, this was done to minimize any damage to the orbiter from falling objects. Macy has worked worldwide on theme park projects for over thirty years but admits this project is a bit more exciting as it will; “…inspire the next generation for years to come, this is real, fast to the future and tells a story.”
Atlantis will be the only orbiter displayed suspended in the air. Beyel Crane & Rigging will take on the critical job of raising the 153,996 Ib orbiter, after attaching an I-beam to Atlantis’ underside she will be raised off the ground to a height of 36 feet. At this point through jacking and blocking she will be rotated to an angle of 43.21 degree’s leaving the port wing off the ground by 7 feet. On final display, the bay doors will be open and guests will be able to walk under and around the orbiter.
Space shuttle Discovery, on display at the Smithsonian’s Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy center located in Chantilly, VA, resides in the spot once held by Enterprise, Endeavour is in a temporary structure at the California Science Center located in Los Angeles, California.
The massive main shuttle tank gas venting beanie-cap from launch complex 39-B had to placed in the building prior Atlantis arrival; this will also be part of the interactive display.
Guests will be able to see a wide-range elements from the shuttle program when Atlantis’ opens next year. Artwork shows Atlantis with mock ups of the Hubble Space Telescope, an astronaut with the Manned Maneuvering Unit or MMU and much more surrounding the spacecraft.
Unlike Endeavour’s move through the streets of Los Angeles which required major disruption of roads and services, Atlantis move will be very straight forward. Florida Power & Light only has to move one high-voltage power line. Other services will need to remove and replace 120 light poles, 23 traffic signals and 56 traffic signs.