With a giant question mark hovering over the future of the U.S. space program, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opened its $100 million Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit Saturday.
“A lot of people, when the space shuttle’s final flight took place . . . sort of misunderstood that this was the end of the space program,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of the visitor complex.
The absence of a straightforward goal for the manned space program – “We’re going to go to Mars” – makes the future murky for the public, Moore said.
The new Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction in Brevard County, Fla., can help people understand that the program is in transition, he said.
For example, NASA is working with private companies on the Commercial Crew Program, which would send manned spacecraft from the U.S. to the International Space Station, and is planning a Space Launch System to take astronauts back into deep space, beyond the shuttle program’s scope.
Now, the retired Atlantis shuttle lives in a 90,000-square-foot building, tilted at a 43-degree angle so that it’s visible from multiple perspectives. The dusty and nicked orbiter is bathed in theatrical lighting and flanked by interactive stations to educate about the shuttle program, which ended with Atlantis’ touchdown at Kennedy Space Center in July 2011.
It’s a view not usually seen by earthbound folks, said astronaut Tom Jones, who was on two of Atlantis’ 33 missions.
“This is the way Atlantis is seen in orbit, by astronauts,” he said. “You never get a chance to see the shuttle like that on Earth. It’s always cocooned in scaffolding or maintenance platforms.”
Read more at: Phys.org