NASA’s last space shuttle rolled out of Kennedy Space Center’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building early Friday to begin a 10-mile road trip to its new home — the spaceport’s Visitor Complex.
Shuttle Atlantis is the third and final spaceship to be turned over to a musuem, marking the official end of the 30-year-old shuttle program. Atlantis returned from the 135th and final shuttle mission in July 2011.
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A day of commemorations and tributes are planned, including a signing ceremony to officially transfer shuttle Atlantis to the privately operated Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
Hundreds of current and former shuttle employees and astronauts paraded behind the shuttle, which was carried aboard a 76-wheel flatbed trailer. It will become the centerpiece of a $100 million exhibit at the Visitor Complex that is expected to open this summer.
The shuttle is to be displayed belly side up and suspended from a pedestal, with its cargo bay doors open as if it were flying in space. Sister ships Discovery and Endeavour are located at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum outside Washington DC and the California Science Center in Los Angeles, respectively.
Image: Shuttle Atlantis’ last voyage — heading not to the launch pad, but to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Credit: Irene Klotz for Discovery News.