Space Shuttle Atlantis moving to its new home

1:03 PM, Nov 2, 2012   |    comments
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Atlantis is towed into Orbiter Processing Facility Bay 2 at Kennedy Space Center.


Cape Canaveral, Florida -- The last space shuttle to circle the earth has become the last to leave its home at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39.

It's one more trip for Atlantis, a veteran of 33 missions, including the final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program last year.

From Florida Today: Live coverage of Shuttle Atlantis' big move

Crews are guiding Atlantis on a ten-mile drive from the huge Vehicle Assembly Building to a new $100 million home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Inching along at a maximum of two miles an hour and stopping for ceremonies and photo ops, the trip is expected to last from about 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

All four members of Atlantis' final crew watched the orbiter start its journey before sunrise Friday.

Sandra Magnus and the rest of the spaceship's last passengers tried to sort out their emotions.

Magnus can still remember zipping around the Earth inside the black-and-white American treasure -- even breaking the rules, hoping to make it last forever.

"I was supposed to go to sleep at a certain time and I was like, 'Uh uh -- I wanna look out the window.' So I spent about three nights or so, two hours after I was supposed to go to sleep, I was... enjoying the world going by," she said.

But she knows this is the end. A ten-mile trip, then parked permanently for public display.

Magnus went to see another shuttle, Discovery, on display in Washington just a few days ago. She walked in upset, and walked out transformed.

"My reaction was, 'Ugh -- this just doesn't belong here. It needs to fly!'" she remembered.

"And then I stood there by it, just kinda looking at it. And I started to catch the conversations going on around me.

"It was really, really neat to listen to parents pointing different things out -- 'Oh, those are the tiles, that's the cockpit, that's where the astronauts sit!'"

A special 76-wheeled trailer -- NASA calls it the Orbiter Transporter System, or OTS -- is carrying the 75-ton spacecraft.

Workers are temporarily removing 120 light poles, 23 traffic signals, and 66 signs to make way for Atlantis.

The shuttle couldn't go in a direct route to its destination without having to tear down a guard shack, so technicians chose a more roundabout route, making the trip about twice as long.

Led by a parade of more than 30 astronauts, Atlantis will arrive inside its new display building at around 6 o'clock Friday evening.

Workers will sort of shrink-wrap the shuttle to keep the dust out as they complete the new building and bring in around 60 exhibits that will surround the shuttle.

The last big challenge will be hoisting this priceless icon almost 40 feet into the air and tilting it at nearly a 45 degree angle.

It will be locked onto pedestals in that position, to appear just like it did during its 33 times in orbit.

Atlantis' new retirement home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will open its doors and start wowing visitors in July.

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