The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is getting ready for its new Atlantis shuttle display with a $100 million building. Construction began in January, and the exhibit is slated to open in July 2013. On November 2nd, Atlantis will make the journey by road from the Kennedy Space Center on a special 76 wheel transporter. The 9.8 mile trip will take all day, with stops along the way for ceremonies with shuttle program employees and the public.
The building that will house the space shuttle is about 116 feet tall and will have a floor area of 90,000 square feet -- big enough to accommodate the 78-foot wingspan and 57-foot height of the orbiter.
Getting Atlantis over to the Visitor Complex is a delicate operation, but not quite as tricky as Endeavour's recent trek through Los Angeles.
"We are at the space center, there's 144,000 acres that we've got to work with here," says Tim Macy, the director of project development at the visitor center. "There's some big wide open spaces."
Still, some modifications have been made to accommodate the shuttle's move.
"We'll take down a ton of light poles, stop signs and traffic signals to get here, but that's just logistics," says Macy. A short section of roadway has also been built to bring the shuttle into the building.
Macy says the trickiest part of the move will likely be maneuvering the shuttle into the new display hall.
After the the orbiter is safely inside, it will be wrapped in protective "bubble wrap" to shield it while construction continues.
The new section of road leading up to the building will be torn up and eventually replaced with landscaping.
Workers will start filling in the final wall of the building withing days of Atlantis being moved inside. Up to 150 people a day are working on the project, and Macy says crews could be increased if necessary.
“I’m really confident in the schedule," says Macy.
"I mean, we’ve built in some weather days that we haven’t had to take advantage of in terms of the exterior of the building, and as anyone will tell you, once you get in and you get sealed up, you can control your own destiny.”
The completed display hall will include a replica of the external tank and solid rocket boosters that visitors will walk under as they enter the building. One of the outside walls incorporates a "swoop" that will be covered by orange cladding to symbolize the shuttle flight.
"You know when it comes down and gets into its de-orbit burn, that orange color, the glow that comes around the base of it, that's the look we're going for there," says Macy.
Tim Macy is confident visitors will be impressed when the display opens next summer.
"We think we're telling the right story here, and we understand the responsibility that's been given to us," says Macy.
"We didn't just get [the orbiter], we feel we've earned the opportunity to present this to the public."