For decades the space shuttle program was the crown jewel of NASA's space initiative. Dozens of astronauts were launched into orbit inside the reusable space shuttles, returning weeks later inside the shuttles, which were designed to glide in for a plane-like landing. After landing, the space shuttles were carried back to Kennedy Space Center on one of two specially-modified Boeing 747s.
With the remaining space shuttles now retired in favor of private space contractors, these planes no longer serve a purpose. Like the space shuttles they carried, the 747s will now be put on display for visitors to space museums.
One of these carriers, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905, is currently in the process of being reassembled after being transported to Space Center Houston in pieces. All 318,000 pounds of the carrier were transported 8 miles from Houston's Ellington Airport last week with the help of 30 different public and private agencies. The move was a success and the craft is now being reassembled live on Space Center Houston's Ustream channel.
The shuttle carrier is centerpiece of a new $12 million exhibit planned for Space Center Houston. The carrier will be joined by Space Shuttle Independence, a scale replica of the original space shuttles, which will be strapped to the top of the carrier the same way real shuttles were for transportation in years past. According to Space Center Houston the attraction, an international landmark, will include interactive exhibits and allow visitors to tour the inside of both the carrier and the space shuttle. The eight-story tall exhibit is expected to open in 2015.
"We're so excited to work with Space Center Houston and have this unique display available for everybody to see," said Ellen Ochoa, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center. "It will help tell the story of the whole shuttle program and of course the part that the shuttle carrier aircraft played. It will bring people all over the world to Space Center Houston."
Image via Space Center Houston