Space Shuttle Atlantis Makes Final Voyage to Permanent Home

Posted November 2nd, 2012 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
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After traveling about 200-million kilometers during 33 trips into space, the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis is making one final voyage.

Early Friday morning, the last of NASA's three surviving space shuttles to be retired from service left the Kennedy Space Center's huge Vehicle Assembly Building in Florida for a relatively short 16-kilometer ride to the Center's Visitor Complex. The exhibit permanently housing Atlantis will open to the public in July next year.

In preparation for Friday's move, workers temporarily removed 120 light poles, 23 traffic signals, 56 traffic signs and one high-voltage line from its path.

Atlantis, first launched in 1985, was the last of NASA's space shuttles to blast into Earth orbit, more than a year ago, on a flight that closed out the three-decade long shuttle program. It is now the last to go on public display.

Its sister ship, Discovery, is housed at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space museum in Virginia. Endeavour is now at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. A prototype shuttle that never flew in space, Enterprise, was moved to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City in June.

Two orbiters in the U.S. space shuttle fleet were lost in disastrous accidents that killed both of their seven-member crews. Challenger exploded a minute after launch in January 1986; Columbia burned up during re-entry in February 2003.