SHUTTLE ATLANTIS: Atlantis will play a major role in the new Shuttle Plaza set to open in the Summer of 2013. This will be part of a major redesign of the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex.
NASA PHOTO: Fish-eye view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis as seen from the Russian Mir space station during the STS-71 mission.
Construction of the orbiter Atlantis began on March 3, 1980 and thanks to lessons learned in the construction and testing of orbiters Enterprise, Columbia and Challenger, Atlantis was completed in about half the time in man-hours spent on Columbia. This is largely attributed to the use of large thermal protection blankets on the orbiter's upper body, rather than individual tiles used on the early shuttles requiring more attention. When Atlantis rolled out of the Palmdale, California assembly plant it weighed 151,315 pounds which was nearly 3.5 tons lighter than Columbia. The new orbiter arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 9, 1985, and over the next seven months was prepared for her maiden voyage.
New Shuttle Display Complex in the Works at Kennedy Space Center
With Atlantis back on Earth for the final time, plans are well underway to put her on display as part of a dynamic new facility at the Kennedy Space Center. Plans were announced that the retiring shuttle orbiter will be the star attraction at a new 66,000 square foot pavilion.
NASA IMAGE: Atlantis' final landing in July 2011
Besides the space-flown Atlantis, the pavilion will also have interactive features displaying historic accomplishments of the Space Shuttle Program. The new complex will be built in the Shuttle Plaza, and will incorporate the current Shuttle Experience building.
The building also include displays highlighting the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope -- two hallmark accomplishments tied to the 30-year shuttle program.
The new Atlantis exhibit is just part of the 10-year master plan to upgrade the visitor complex, which is Brevard County's most popular paid tourist attraction, drawing about 1.5 million visitors a year.
The proposed a multi-story building will feature the Atlantis suspended in front of a digital projection of the Earth which will rotate behind the orbiter. It is hoped that the display will show the spacecraft at work in space providing a unique vantage point for guests to look at Atlantis close enough to almost touch.
ABOVE: Rendering of the new Shuttle Plaza expected to open in the Summer 2013.
It is anticipated that construction will begin in 2012 and be open to visitors during the summer of 2013. The Atlantis building is just part of a major reconstruction of the Kennedy Space Center.