Friday was a bittersweet day when the Space Shuttle Program saw the last of its Orbiters delivered to its new home. Space Shuttle Atlantis made the 10 mile trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex closing out the Space Shuttle Program.
Atlantis’s final day of motion started early when just before dawn she was backed out of the VAB, and a precise turn was made so that she could parade proudly past the Space Shuttle Team who worked on her as she embarked on her final move to the KSC Visitor Complex. With a beautiful backdrop of the VAB in shadow and a deep blue sky tinged with the pink of predawn Atlantis started to roll on a 10 mile trip to the Visitor Complex which will be her new home.
Once out of the VAB and OPF area Atlantis turned south onto SR3 with a full escort of security and NASA safety specialists. Travelling at walking pace an top of the 76 wheeled Orbiter Transportation System we were able to leapfrog the shuttle as she made steady progress down the road, stopping at convenient points for photo opportunities and farewells from the NASA complex staff.
Continue reading for the remainder of the trip and to view our picture gallery of the final move…
On reaching the SR405 rather than making a right turn and a short trip of a mile or so Atlantis turned left towards the Central Instrumentation Facility. As Atlantis approached the CIF she was escorted by a marching band from one of the local schools.
The CIF was the location for a short stop when once again many workers and VIPs had the opportunity to view her and there were a number of speeches as NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden officially signed over custody to KSC Director Robert Cabana.
Fittingly as the sun sets on the Space Shuttle Program so the sun set over Atlantis as she was parked in her new home in a purpose built exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center. As the skies darkened the penultimate event of the day saw a spectacular firework display seemingly emanating from the cargo bay of the orbiter.
It took about 30 minutes for the last few yards, with the transporter inching in. NASA Safety officials and the contractors checked the clearances as the wing tips approached the aperture. The clearances were just a few inches on either side, and the alignment had to be perfect to allow the ingress into the final resting place.
Indeed the clearance was so tight that as they nearly had the orbiter in the building they had to back out as it was too close on the right hand side. The second attempt went smoothly and as the transporter engines shut down Atlantis was at rest once again.
The exhibition will be completed and opened in July 2013 in time for the influx of tourists for the summer season.