The orbiter's new home could be open as early as July
By Meagan McGone
BREVARD - A steel beam locked into place atop a 115-foot structure marked the completion of the framework for space shuttle Atlantis' exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
The topping out ceremony, which took place on Wednesday, Sept. 5, commemorates the overall completion of the building's structure, which will honor the shuttle program. And though there is still much work to be accomplished, guests might be able to view the Atlantis space shuttle exhibit as early as July, said Andrea Farmer, public relations manager for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
With the framework complete, workers tasked with building the shuttle's new home will begin enclosing the space, leaving one wall open, so Atlantis can be rolled into the structure on Nov. 2. Then, they will begin constructing the interior of the 90,000-square-foot exhibit.
On the inside, guests will experience an up-close display of Atlantis, tilted at an intentional 43.21 degrees, as if it were traveling in space, with its payload bay doors open.
Surrounding it will be 62 exhibits, including a full-scale mockup of the Hubble Space Telescope and a full-scale model of a portion of the International Space Station, according to www.nasa.gov.
To complete the structure, it will take 1,400 tons of steel and $100 million.
"Please keep in mind that no tax dollars are used to fund the operation, maintenance and development of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex," Ms. Farmer said. "Proceeds are used from ticket, retail and food sales."
She said that being home to NASA's orbiter is a great honor for the state of Florida and Brevard County.
"We anticipate an increase of 12 percent in attendance once the orbiter home opens," she said.
According to the Kennedy Space Center's website, www.kennedyspacecenter.com, the exhibit will be the highlight of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's 10-year master plan, proposed by the complex's operator, Delaware North Companies.
The plan's goal is to "transform NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex into a place where explorers of all ages can tour America's spaceport to engage with the people and machines that shape the future of our world," according to the website.
For the topping out ceremony, hundreds of workers, as well as Kennedy Space Center and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex staff members, signed the final beam before it was added to the structure. Among those signatures was Bob Cabana's, the director of the Kennedy Space Center.
"Atlantis, the last space shuttle to ever fly in space, is going to look like it actually is in space here at the Kennedy Space Center," Mr. Cabana said during the ceremony. "I can't think of a more fitting place to tell that story."
For more information, visit www.kennedyspacecenter.com.
View the historic final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour
After 19 years of service, 25 missions, 133 astronauts carried, 299 days in space and more than 122 million miles traveled, Space Shuttle Endeavour is departing Kennedy Space Center for the last time.
Guests are invited to join the farewell celebration Friday through Monday, Sept. 14 to 17, at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
The public has the opportunity to see Endeavour as it is being prepared for its journey atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft Sept. 14 and 15.
Through scheduled exclusive Endeavour bus tours, guests will be able to view the orbiter as it is lifted and placed atop a specially designed Boeing 747 aircraft.
There are opportunities to view the fly-out of Endeavour at approximately 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 17.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, call (877) 313-2610 or visit www.kennedyspacecenter.com.