Atlantis, The Last Shuttle To Retire, Finds Home In New Museum - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Atlantis, The Last Shuttle To Retire, Finds Home In New Museum

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It was the last space shuttle to orbit the earth. Now the Atlantis' final journey is complete. The shuttle just made its big museum debut at the Kennedy Space Center, and crowds are excited.

The huge new building is wrapped in a vapor trail. At the entrance, full-scale replicas of the shuttle's external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters stand 184 feet tall.

"Welcome folks to the new home of Atlantis. You're going to go right up the ramp to the preshow theatre," says a greeter.

The exhibit starts with a new film on the beginnings of the shuttle.

"It's not a rocket, it's a shuttle," says the voiceover.

The experience moves quickly just a few steps from where Atlantis is revealed. Seemingly floating in space, you can then look at Atlantis from all angles. Atlantis was the fifth of six shuttles, built in 1985.

"We really wanted to have it so it looked like you were looking out the window of the International Space Station and give you the view and astronaut might see as she pulled away," says Tim Macy, the Director.

The private company that operates the Space Center Visitor's Complex spent $100 million on the Atlantis attraction. They had a mission to capture the "video game generation."

"We're gonna sneak up on them," says Macy. "You know there are sixty interactive exhibits here along with Atlantis that are on display."

Already, he's winning over a tough crowd.

"And I heard a couple of minutes ago, and I didn't make this up. He said I didn't know space was so cool; ten years old. I said, ‘ok, I can go home now.'"

Another important audience is the thousands who built and flew the shuttles over 30 years. Can it pass their test?

"This is truly incredible. People get to see her like we've never seen her before except in space," says Jim Reilly, a former astronaut for NASA who's logged over 853 hours in space.

Former astronaut J.R. Reilly flew two missions aboard Atlantis and performed five spacewalks from shuttles.

"The thing that I can imagine that I'm sure will happen is that people will get an appreciation of what this vehicle did," says Reilly.

The Atlantis Shuttle Program launched The Hubble Telescope and built the International Space Station. And now you can get a close look from every angle at even the scars it still carries from those millions of miles. The final landing of Atlantis was July 2011.

Of all the retired shuttles, Atlantis made the shortest journey, just 9.8 miles to the visitor's complex, a short distance. With the space program largely out of the spotlight, just how many people come to see Atlantis may be the shuttle's final test. It's the icon that opened the door to almost regular service between earth and space.

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