NASA: Space Shuttle Atlantis

If you have not visited the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in the last several years, there has been a big addition to the complex.  The Space Shuttle Atlantis was added to the list of attractions a few years ago.  They did an excellent job in designing  a unique building around the shuttle.  When you enter the building, you will view two short movies about the history of the shuttle program, before the curtain rises and you walk right into the nose of the Atlantis.  For many, it can be an emotional experience.

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What surprised us, was learning NASA started to work on the shuttle program back in 1969, during the Apollo program. Their goal was to develop a reusable spacecraft.  After 12 years, space shuttle Columbia was launched on April 12, 1981.  A total of five shuttles were built.  Two of them, Challenger and Columbia, were tragically lost in 1986 and 2003, respectively.   The Atlantis building contains a nice memorial to the astronauts that made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Atlantis was first launched in 1985, and flew its final mission July 8 -21, 2011.  In its 26 years of service, Atlantis made 33 missions with 207 astronauts, and flew a total of 126 million miles.  The shuttle is displayed with its cargo bay doors open, and the control arm out.

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The main purpose of the shuttle was to build the International Space Station (15 countries have worked together on this project), and launch and repair the Hubble Telescope.  The Atlantis building contains many interactive displays, were you can learn about the many experiments the astronauts undertook in space.  You can spend several hours just going through all the displays.  So many things that we take for granted today are a result of the space program.

This is what the bathroom looks like for the astronauts.

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The building also has a model of the Hubble Telescope, which was named after American astronomer Edwin P Hubble.  It was launched April 24, 1990, and is about the size of a school bus.  It is about 354 miles from Earth.

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In 2018, NASA will be launching a new telescope, James Webb Space Telescope, named after the NASA administrator who was a major part of the Apollo program.  It will be about the size of a tennis court, with a 21 foot mirror, and will eventually be 930,000 miles from Earth.  This is a 1/125th scale model of the telescope.


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The building also contains the Shuttle Launch Experience, which is launch simulation, included in your admission, along with many other simulators where you can land a shuttle, dock the shuttle and use the robotic arm.  Dan’s brother Gary and his wife Julia were down visiting in Florida and we spent a day at the Visitor’s Center.  We all tried to land the shuttle.  Julia was the only one of us that successfully landed the shuttle.  The rest of us crashed!

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We have made several visits to the Center before we left Florida.  Our annual pass does not expire until February of 2018, so we do plan on going back when we are back in Florida.  We still have several movies left to see, and they always seem to be adding in more exhibits.  They have some added tours that can be taken for an additional fee, and we would like to do those as well.  So next year I will have a few more posts on the Center.

We would highly recommend a visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex.

Quote for the Day:  “The dream is alive.” – John Young, after landing the first Space Shuttle STS-1 at Edwards Air Force Base April 14, 1981.


2 thoughts on “NASA: Space Shuttle Atlantis

  1. I remember quite well when that screen rose and we were nose to nose with Atlantis, Jonell. It definitely took my breath away! That was one of the best displays I had ever seen. Gerald Ford had a model of the Space Shuttle prominently displayed in the Oval Office way back in the mid 1970’s, before most of us were aware of it.

    Great post! 🙂

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