Transportation Nation

PHOTOS: Space Shuttle Atlantis Now On Display in Florida

Friday, June 28, 2013

Space shuttle Atlantis made its debut at a $100 million specially built hangar at Florida's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

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Transportation Nation

H is for Hoodie: Rockaways Shuttle Swag Will Benefit Hard-Hit Queens Neighborhood

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

For $34, you too can dress like MTA chair Joe Lhota.  Note: the catwalk is his actual office. (Photo courtesy of NY MTA)

You can ride the H train for free -- but the shirt is a different story.

On Tuesday, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority launched the Rockaways Collection -- shirts, magnets, and pins branded with the logo of the shuttle now plying the heavily damaged Queens neighborhood.

The MTA says all profits from the sales will go to the Graybeards, a Rockaways non-profit helping rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. Products will be sold through the New York Transit Museum.


But can the MTA afford to give away money? The transit agency sustained $5 billion in damages from Sandy. It will cost $650 million alone just to restore A train service from mainland Queens to the Rockaways. It had to truck subway cars out to the neighborhood just to operate the free H train shuttle service.

An MTA spokesman says yes.

"We have a financial plan," says Aaron Donovan. “We will have money available through issuing short-term notes to restore the service and we expect to be reimbursed by FEMA and our insurance.”

The MTA announced last week it was taking on debt to pay for Sandy damages and will issue $950 million in bonds. At that time, chairman Joe Lhota said he had "an enormous amount of confidence" that the MTA would receive "a substantial amount of money" from the federal government.

Since then, both New York City's mayor and the state's governor have gone to Washington to make the case for federal aid.

To learn more about the H train, and to watch a video of how the MTA got subway cars out to the Rockaways, go here.



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Transportation Nation

PHOTOS: Atlantis Display Hall Takes Shape

Monday, October 22, 2012

Atlantis will be taken into the new building through the back (photo by Matthew Peddie)

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.

Tim Macy points out his favorite building features (photo by Matthew Peddie)

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.

Working on the ceiling 100 feet off the ground (photo by Matthew Peddie)

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 entrance  to Atlantis' new home (photo by Matthew Peddie)

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.

Working on the "swoop" wall (photo by Matthew Peddie)

"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.

Artist's impression of Atlantis display [image credit: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center

Inside the hall, the shuttle will be displayed as in orbit, at an angle, so visitors can see both above and below the orbiter. The building features state-of-the-art air conditioning to protect the shuttle from humidity, and it includes a rail along the ceiling with a platform that can be raised and lowered so cleaners can access the shuttle.

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."

The back wall of the display hall will be closed up after Atlantis moves in on November 2nd (photo by Matthew Peddie)






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Transportation Nation

Space Shuttle Endeavour Heads West

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

(photo by Mark Simpson)

The space shuttle Endeavour has taken off on its final flight across the country, where it's heading to Los Angeles. WMFE's Mark Simpson was on hand at dawn to photograph its departure from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. (You can see more of Mark's pictures in the days leading up to Wednesday's departure here, and read more about today's launch here.)

Here it is, bolted on top of a 747, prior to takeoff.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

The countdown clock -- now dark.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

Before the shuttle lands in Los Angeles on Friday, it will make a stop in Houston -- home to Mission Control.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

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Transportation Nation

The Enterprise, Boldly Going Up the Hudson

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

(photo by Kate Hinds)

The space shuttle Enterprise floated by WNYC Wednesday morning en route to its new home at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Despite a construction elevator moving maddeningly to almost obscure the view, we were able to catch a glimpse.

The museum's Enterprise exhibit is scheduled to open to the public this summer.

Can't get enough of the shuttle? Check out photos of its arrival in New York in April here. To see WNYC listener-submitted photos of the shuttle's flyover, go here.


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Space Shuttle Enterprise Slow Boats It to New NYC Digs

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Space Shuttle Enterprise will travel up the Hudson River from Jersey City on Wednesday. It will pass the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center before being hoisted by crane onto the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The Enterprise's original move-in date was Tuesday but organizers announced Monday that bad weather had delayed preparation work.

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Transportation Nation

Is JetBlue Planning N.Y.-D.C. Shuttle?

Friday, December 02, 2011

JetBlue has acquired enough airport slots to run eight flights a day between LaGuardia and Washington Reagan National Airport in D.C.

"We just won the slots and are reviewing what we can and can't do, so I wouldn't rule anything out," Mateo Lleras, JetBlue spokesman told Transportation Nation. "We haven't announced anything yet," he said, adding he doesn't expect any official news to come out for "a few weeks." There are restrictions on what routes can be flown from each airport -- from LGA, less than 1,500 miles, and from DCA, less than 1,250.

JetBlue and the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday that that the discount airline, with a hub at New York's larger and less convenient JFK airport, and Canadian carrier WestJet had won an auction for slots being divested from Delta airlines.

JetBlue will pay $40 million for eight pairs of daily slots at Reagan National (DCA) and $32.0 million for eight slot pairs at LaGuardia (LGA). A slot pair allows for one arriving and one departing flight per day at an airport. Delta's popular LGA to DCA shuttle leaves roughly once an hour during business hours.

JetBlue already offers limited flights from LGA and DCA, but none between the two.

The U.S. DOT and the FAA required Delta and US Airways to divest a total of 48 slots between the two airlines as a condition for granting them permission to exchange other slots at LGA and DCA.

Across the country, short haul flights have been on the decline over the past years. While on the Northeast corridor, bus and train travel has grown rapidly.

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Transportation Nation

Houston to Get Free Downtown Shuttle After Six-Year Gap

Thursday, October 13, 2011

(Photo courtesy of Houston Downtown Management District)

Many cities offer free shuttles to help people move around their downtown areas.  Fort Worth, Texas has "Molly the Trolley" which takes visitors between hotels and various attractions.  Denver has its free "MallRide" bus which transports riders near its 16th Street Mall.  Smaller cities like Des Moines, Iowa and Savannah, Georgia also have free shuttles.  But in Houston,  a trip through downtown will cost you.  There's a $6.00 flat fare for cabs, and a ride of any distance on the bus or rail costs $1.25.  The only option for getting around cheap is to walk or bike.
But starting next year,  locals and visitors will be able to get around for free on the new Greenlink Route.   Seven buses powered by compressed natural gas will ferry riders along a 2.5 mile route, stopping at destinations like City Hall and the Theatre District.  City officials hope the route will help revitalize downtown retail business,  because  office workers can get to  stores that may be too far away for a lunch-hour walk.  Like a lot of older downtown areas, many people don't see it as a shopping destination and parking is one of the big reasons.

Officials also say it will make the nation's fourth-largest city a more attractive destination for conventions and tourism.   Thousands of people attend events each year at the city's huge George R. Brown Convention Center, and officials say the free shuttle will be a selling point as they try to lure more conventions and trade shows.  Right now, many organizations run their own free shuttles during conventions.

Houston has been without a free shuttle downtown since the Metropolitan Transit Authority stopped operating its trolley buses several years ago. Ridership fell on the trolleys after Metro imposed a 50-cent fare in 2004. The shuttle ceased operating the next year.

The new Greenlink buses will be operated through a public-private partnership. Involved in the effort are the Houston Downtown Management District, the Houston First Corporation, which manages city-owned venues, and the energy company BG Group, which just opened a downtown office. Startup costs for the Greenlink line amount to $3.7 million, with the bulk of the money coming from two Federal Transit Administration grants.  The buses will cost about a million dollars a year to operate.

Mayor Annise Parker says along with helping people get around downtown quicker, the natural gas buses are also part of the city's commitment to clean energy. "Being more sustainable, being more environmentally conscious, is also often, in fact most often, good for the bottom line."

The 28-seat buses will be manufactured in the US by Gillig LLC, and officials are touting  amenities such as  "high-quality air conditioning." That will no doubt be a relief to riders when the buses start running next May. Parker says the Greenlink line should create about 30 new jobs.

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The End of the Shuttle Program?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Miles OBrien, freelance space reporter and former CNN chief science/technology/environment correspondent, talks with Brian Lehrer about the void in leadership at NASA and what it means for the shuttle program.

Listen to the whole interview here