Space Shuttle Atlantis has landed in its final resting place. Well, technically, it’s suspended three stories up, so, absent some disaster, it won’t be touching down again any time soon.
The last of the shuttles to go into orbit, Atlantis is now on display in a $100 million dollar facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft is suspended 30 feet above the main floor and mounted at a 43 degree angle, cargo bay door open and robot arm extended, to allow visitors to see it from a variety of perspectives.
Bob Cabana, a former astronaut and current director of the Kennedy Space Center says the facility is about more than just this craft: “We showcase Atlantis, but it tells the 30-year history of the shuttle program and the amazing team that made it all happen. I think we display Atlantis like no other orbiter, and folks are going to get to see it as only a very few have on orbit. It truly looks as if it's flying in space.”
The Atlantis facility features more than 60 interactive exhibits, including a full-scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope, shuttle landing and space station docking simulators, and a space station mockup designed for kids.
Making the experience exciting for young visitors is key, says Cabana: “It will capture the imagination of another generation, it will continue to inspire as it starts off on its second mission in life. It was a phenomenal spaceship, it helped us explore and discover, and now it's going to lead a mission of inspiration to future scientists, engineers and explorers.”
Atlantis finished its 33rd and final mission on July 21, 2011, having logged over 125 million miles and having orbited the Earth over 4,800 times.
The other two existing shuttles are also either on display or set to be—Endeavor at the California Space Center and Discovery, the oldest remaining shuttle, at the Smithsonian in Washington.