Space shuttle Atlantis rolls out

MERRITT ISLAND — Shuttle workers, current and former astronauts, NASA officials and thousands of public visitors gathered at Kennedy Space Center to view the last move of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on Friday as it traveled to its $100 million resting place.

“We’re in the business of creating the future, and we’re in the business of taking science fiction and turning it into science fact,” said Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, at the signing ceremony event on Friday, Nov. 2.

Atlantis moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building at the crack of dawn to begin its final mission. Atop the 76-wheel Orbiter Transportation System vehicle, the shuttle was moved to several locations at NASA’s KSC as part of this send-off ceremony.

As it left the VAB for the last time it was followed by a group of shuttle workers behind a signed banner that read “We Made History Atlantis.”

The shuttle stopped at the signing ceremony in front of the KSC headquarters building led by members of the Titusville High School marching band. This marked the official retirement and transfer of title for Atlantis from NASA to the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex.

“Although it’s the end of Atlantis flying in space, it’s not the end,” said NASA KSC Director, Robert Cabana. “It’s not the end for KSC, we’re charging into the future.”

KSC has been the site for every manned space mission since the first Apollo missions in the 1960s. Though it is currently in a transitional phase due to the space shuttle’s retirement, manned missions are set to continue form KSC in the future.

Atlantis was moved to Space Florida’s Exploration Park after the transfer ceremony to give those in attendance one last up-close look at the shuttle from all sides.

At this event were life-sized vehicle models of NASA and private industry projects set to be the future of space exploration in the post-shuttle era, including SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft and the Orion spacecraft developed by Lockheed Martin.

This event had a bittersweet undertone for those personally involved with the 30-year-long space shuttle program. More than 30 astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin, led the way as the shuttle neared its exhibit location.

Astronaut, Rex Walheim logged over 36 days in space as he flew on three missions for Atlantis.

“It’s a great adventure to fly in space and [kids are] the right age to come fly on the next wave of vehicles, beit commercial crew vehicles to the International Space Station or the Orion vehicle to the Moon, an asteroid and to Mars,” said Walheim.

Atlantis’s 90,000-square-foot, $100 million exhibit is scheduled to open in July 2013. It will be suspended in the air, tilted at a 43 degree angle, with its payload bay doors opened and large robotic arm extended.

Visitors will be able to look into the payload bay from a raised walkway and get a glimpse of what the shuttle looked like in orbit. They will also be able to walk underneath and view the tiles that worked to protect the shuttle upon re-entry to Earth.

More information on this and other exhibits located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center can be found at