Press Release

KSC Home to Shuttle Atlantis

By SpaceRef Editor
April 13, 2011
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Narrator: Even after NASA’s Space Shuttle Program comes to an end, the agency will have the unique opportunity to share its unparalleled tale of flying the world’s first reusable spacecraft . . . and it will do so from its very own launch site with the help of space shuttle Atlantis.

Charlie Bolden, Administrator/NASA: First, here at the Kennedy Space Center, where every shuttle and so many other historic human spaceflights have originated, we’ll showcase my old friend, Atlantis.

Narrator: On April 12, NASA and its design partners received the “go” they’ve been hoping for with the announcement that Atlantis will join the rockets, capsules and artifacts from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo eras at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Described as a super-charged, space shuttle-themed science center, it will feature interactive exhibits to engage, entertain and inspire even the world’s most tech-savvy audience.

Luis Berrios, NASA Design Specialist/Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Development Team: This very Space Shuttle Plaza will be completely transformed. We plan on adding to the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction and enhancing the storytelling with what will become a very, very large addition to this complex.

Narrator: Inside a new 65,000-square-foot facility in the heart of the complex’s Space Shuttle Plaza, the 100-ton shuttle is expected to look like its soaring through space, with its landing gear raised and payload bay opened. Anchored at an angle, guests would get an up-close view of Atlantis’ belly and the thousands of black heat shield tiles that allowed the shuttle to travel through Earth’s harsh atmosphere more than 30 times. The shuttle’s robot arm also could be deployed, as if reaching out to a satellite.

Bill Moore, Chief Operating Officer/Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: We started working on the design probably earlier than most folks had done. And we went further than everybody’s done. We’ve completed an entire conceptual design. It’s all drawn up, we’ve got a lot of agreement with folks at NASA about how we want to do this.

Narrator: The display could reveal how shuttle crews performed science and research experiments in the weightlessness of space, helped construct the International Space Station, and deployed, retrieved and serviced satellites, such as NASA’s treasured Hubble Space Telescope. It also could unveil what it felt like for an astronaut to venture out on the first untethered spacewalk.

Luis Berrios, NASA Design Specialist/Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Development Team: One of my favorite is the Manned Maneuvering Unit, and how that impressed everyone to watch Bruce McCandless fly untethered, out there completely in space without a single, you know, just looking back on everyone else. What must that have felt like for him? It must have been amazing.

Narrator: Designers want to paint a picture of just how many working parts it took to launch NASA’s fleet. There are many features that could be worked into the display to help guests appreciate the shuttle system as a whole, including the solid rocket boosters and giant external fuel tank. Even structures saved during the deconstruction of Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B could be incorporated, such as the gaseous oxygen vent arm, called the “beanie cap,” and the orbiter access arm, which is replete with the memories of astronauts walking through before waving farewell and boarding a shuttle for liftoff. While the spacecraft and its myriad of components will be the main attraction, designers also dove deep into the human aspect of the program.

Luis Berrios, NASA Design Specialist/Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Development Team: I mean, we treat our orbiters like our own family members and they’re very close to our hearts.

Bob Cabana, Center Director/NASA’s Kennedy Space Center: The Space Shuttle Program has made possible countless scientific breakthroughs, it’s produced unprecedented international cooperation, and it’s fostered a future of human exploration made up of limitless possibilities.

Narrator: Annually, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex reaches more than 1.5 million guests and by adding a flown shuttle to the mix, it’s expecting a major boost in attendance.

Bob Cabana, Center Director/NASA’s Kennedy Space Center: It’s really important that we get to keep an orbiter here at the Kennedy Space Center. We get over a million visitors a year. This is the home of human spaceflight, it’s the home of the space shuttle. To be able to share that excitement, that story with all our visitors to inspire the next generation of explorers, it’s huge in being able to tell the story of human spaceflight and of NASA. So, I think it’s outstanding that Atlantis gets to stay here with us and not leave after her last flight.

Narrator: Atlantis is scheduled to round out the shuttle program this year with its last flight — STS-135. After its return from space, technicians and engineers will spend a few months prepping the vehicle for public display — paving the way for a grand opening as early as the summer of 2013.

Charlie Bolden, Administrator/NASA: I want to congratulate all of these fine institutions and wish them many visitors and exciting programs with the space shuttle fleet. For all of them, take good care of our vehicles. They’ve served the nation well and we at NASA have a deep and abiding relationship and love affair with them that’s hard to put into words.

SpaceRef staff editor.