|October 18, 2012 — Atlantis, the last space shuttle in NASA's retired orbiter fleet still to be delivered to a museum for public display, was rolled out of its hangar at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday (Oct. 17) and moved the short distance into the 52-story tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to await its final journey.
The rollover, which earlier in the shuttle program would have led to Atlantis being paired with rocket boosters and an external fuel tank for its next launch into orbit, instead signaled that it had completed its transformation from a spaceflight-worthy vehicle to an artifact ready for its exhibition.
Since Atlantis last landed from space in 2011, ending the 135th and final mission of the space shuttle era, the black and white orbiter was stripped of its hazardous materials, as well as had some of its hardware removed for its possible reuse by future launch vehicles. Atlantis was also outfitted with replica engines and a mock airlock for display, as well as yellow "strongback" beams to facilitate the opening of its payload bay doors once inside the exhibit.
Atlantis will wait parked in the VAB for its upcoming move to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, planned for Nov. 2. In the interim, bused-in guests will be able to see the shuttle during limited daily tours offered by the visitor center.
The early November road trip will deliver Atlantis, atop a 76-wheel transporter, to the visitor complex's new six-story, $100 million display facility, where the shuttle will eventually be surrounded by more than 60 related exhibits. The grand opening for Atlantis' permanent display is targeted for July 2013.
Photos: NASA / Jim Grossmann / Tim Jacobs
See shuttles.collectspace.com for full coverage of the delivery and display of NASA's space shuttles.