Tuesday, November 19, 2013


The last place I visited on my tour of Kennedy Space Center was the new Atlantis exhibit.

The entrance is marked by the solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank.

Which were, to me anyways, surprisingly large.

Like with the Apollo/Saturn V museum, the Atlantis pavilion entrance leads the visitor through a pair of  theaters, which tell the story of the development of the  space shuttle, cost overruns, delays, and all.

From the initial paper plane model.

To the real deal, the actual Atlantis spacecraft.

Which is revealed as the screen in the last theater becomes transparent. A rather large spacecraft coming straight at you. It is a very well done effect. The screen then rises and you walk into the grand hall housing the spacecraft.

I lingered waiting for the (sparse) crowd to clear so I could get the shot I wanted. I made it out with just seconds to spare.

It was fun to see the ship like this, up close and personal as the cliche goes.

Here's a shot of the famous heat tiles.

And one of the cargo bay, highlighting the Canadian robotic arm.

The only way it could have been better is if they let you climb inside. Alas, you'll just have to imagine me waving from the window.

The shuttle was supposed to be NASA's space truck, making flight after flight with quick turn arounds between each. It didn't work out that way. The system was just too fragile, requiring significant work to get ready for the next flight. And two of the shuttles suffered catastrophic failures, Challenger and Columbia, killing all onboard. And of course, for most of the program there was nowhere to truck stuff to until the International Space Station was assembled. And unmanned throw away boosters could lift stuff to Earth orbit cheeper.

A flawed machine with no real mission. But still the first reusable spacecraft. And a model for the craft being build by private companies today. Perhaps all is not lost for my childhood dreams.

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