Space Shuttle Atlantis Now On Exhibit At Kennedy Space Center
To Florida, and beyond!
I don’t know about you, fellow geeks, but I was never one of those kids who wanted to grow up to be an astronaut. This is not to say that I don’t think astronauts and space aren’t cool, they just didn’t float my boat (or fly my rocket, as the case may be). No, I’d seen “Jurassic Park,” so I wanted to be a paleontologist. Then I learned that paleontologists work with dinosaur bones as opposed to living dinosaurs, and I was rather upset. But we’re not here to talk about my disillusioned adolescent self. We’re here to talk about space travel, specifically the awesomness that is the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
Named after the president that vowed Americans would walk on the moon before his decade was out, Kennedy Space Center now serves as the home of (among other things) the last orbiter space shuttle: Atlantis. The exhibit opened last Saturday (June 29, 2013), and from the pictures, it looks pretty cool. Visitors enter the exhibit by walking under an enormous pair of booster rockets.
The rockets are replicas, but the space shuttle inside is 100% genuine. Tilted at an angle, Atlantis is positioned in such a way that visitors can see into its open payload bay. Another detailed replica, this time of the shuttle’s robotic grasping arm, reaches out over the heads of the crowd.
While the exhibit contains the last of NASA’s orbiter space shuttles, visitors are treated to over 30 years of history about the space program. As such, they can crawl through a replica of the International Space Station, check out a detailed model of the Hubble Telescope, and more than 60 different activities that let you step into the moon shoes of an astronaut.
While Atlantis was designed to fly 100 times, it only went on 33 missions before NASA shut down the shuttle program, which makes the exhibit rather bittersweet for those visitors who worked on the shuttle. It wasn’t until I began researching this article that I really thought about what these space planes were for. “Shuttle” after all, refers to a form of transportation that takes something from Point A to Point B and then comes back to Point A. If it weren’t for our shuttles, there’s so much we wouldn’t know about space, so much we wouldn’t have back here on Earth. I’m sad the shuttle program was shut down. I feel like we’ve lost something.
Then again, now that Atlantis won’t be going on any more missions, it can educate those of us here on the Pale Blue Dot.
I like to think that some children, some brave souls (braver than I, certainly), will look upon this rocket, unfairly shackled by gravity and shrunken budgets, and a spark will grow within their hearts. I hope that the Atlantis exhibit inspires something deep inside them, a need to learn more about the universe and a desire to expand beyond our world. I don’t know all the reasons behind the shutdown of the shuttle program, but I want to believe that some good can come of it.
If you’d like to learn more about the Atlantis exhibit, I recommend you check out this link to the Kennedy Space Center’s website.
What do you think, fellow geeks? Has anyone been to Kennedy Space Center, or to see the other orbiter shuttles in Virginia, California or New York? Be sure to let us know here in the comment section below, or on Twitter @GeekSmashCom or @ColinOboyle.