Outside the Shuttle Launch Experience building is a full sized NASA shuttle named Explorer that has been setup to allow visitors to get a feeling of what it is like to stand inside a real shuttle.
The Shuttle Explorer is a close replica of a full-sized shuttle, although the heat tiles on the exterior are simulated, as are the interior spaces. The Explorer does give visitors a good sense of scale. It is surprising how small the cargo bay actually is.
The Explorer was built in 1993 for the Visitor Complex by Guard Lee, Inc. and features a high fidelity mid-deck, flight deck, and cargo bay with 20,000 exterior tiles.
Touring the Shuttle Area
Besides the Shuttle Launch Experience Facility, there is also a replica space shuttle and fuel tank assembly for visitors to get an idea of the scale of these shuttle components.
Above: In the cargo bay is a recreated Hughes Electronics Intelsat satellite.
Some folks are confused about the Shuttle Missions. They were never designed to go to the moon or any other planet. They were designed to carry a large payload and crew into space, then return, go through a refitting process and be ready to relaunch in a relatively short period of time.
After several mishaps and fatalities, it became apparent that it was going to be more expensive than originally thought to continue with the shuttle program. While it is not clear what will replace the shuttle program, our dependence on space exploration, and orbiting space stations will require a new vision and new challenges that will become apparent in the next few years.
Shuttle Launch Experience!
The Shuttle Launch Experience is a dramatic recreation for the senses that approximates some of the same feelings astronauts experience during lift-off.
Read more about the Launch Experience…
Stand Inside a Shuttle
See what it’s like to stand inside the shuttle bay, or look onto the flight deck. The shuttle self-guided tour allows visitors to climb on board a grounded shuttle to see for themselves exactly what its like to be inside. Although you can’t sit in the captains seat, you can see it through protective glass.
To access the various decks, visitors can climb the gantry or ride an elevator to the various decks.