In June, we were invited to attend the grand opening of the Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. I don't have to prove what a nerd I am, right? The shuttle program and the Space Coast has been near and dear to my heart since I was a kid. When I was a kid attending elementary school in the Orlando area, whenever there was a shuttle launch, our teachers would take us out to the bus loop or an open field in a single file line and we got to watch the shuttle launch. Years later, when I moved to the Space Coast, I could see day and night launches right from my backyard or the balcony at my office. The sense of awe and wonder was always there along with a sense of pride.
I was fortunate to be able to see two shuttle launches up close at Kennedy Space Center, one in November 2009, the STS-129 mission which was the Shuttle Atlantis and a NASA Tweetup for the STS-134 mission which was Shuttle Endeavour. There's nothing like being able to witness a shuttle or rocket launch as close as they let you (which is a few miles away for safety reasons). The delay in the sounds you hear and the roar in your chest fills you with pride. What you're witnessing is, a vehicle crafted by humans getting ready to launch into space and as an American, I would feel proud for our space agency and proud of the accomplishments of our astronauts.
So when it was announced that the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex would become home to the Shuttle Atlantis, I was so excited! This was a couple of years in the making…when the grand opening weekend came, I was even more thrilled. I was so excited to share get to experience it with Curtis.
Above: entrance to the building that houses the Space Shuttle Atlantis; a full-scale,
184-foot-tall vertical replica of the space shuttle’s external tank and two solid rocket boosters.
Thanks to Andrea, Christine and the rest of the KSC Visitor Complex team for making my visit to the grand opening possible! What an amazing experience that Curtis and I will cherish forever!
Photo by Curtis; me standing on the risers because I'm so short!
CNN's John Zarrella was the MC for the grand opening ceremony. Look at that crowd!
He introduced astronauts from Shuttle Atlantis' 33 missions. It was amazing to have at least one astronaut from every one of Atlantis' mission in attendance.
Robert Cabana, former astronaut and current director of Kennedy Space Center, remarked on how he wanted kids to be inspired by the shuttle display the same way he was inspired by the Wright Bros. exhibit at the Smithsonian when he was a kid. His hope along with many others like me, is for kids to see the shuttle and be in awe of it and become inspired to take more science courses and explore a career in the sciences.
Totally cool moment when two astronauts spoke to the crowd from the International Space Station!
After entering the building that houses the Space Shuttle Atlantis, you're ushered into a theater that shows you a short film on the development of the shuttle program.
And then you're taken into a second amazing theater, I don't want to spoil the surprises but it's an amazing experience. The film is well done and I have seen grown men cry — the way the KSC Visitor Complex designed the film and the way you're introduced to the shuttle has me beaming with pride (every time) and it's hard for me not to come to tears too. Curtis talks about getting a little choked up too. Kudos to the workers, designers and construction workers who brought it all together. I cannot say enough how awesomely designed this exhibit is!
When you're ushered into the room with the Shuttle Atlantis, the lights over the shuttle is glowing blue kind of like she is in orbit.
After 26 years of service, 33 missions and traveling almost 1.26 million miles, it's only fitting that the Shuttle that flew the final Space Shuttle mission is at home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, not far from where all of the shuttles lifted off from.
I had to take a photo with her!
I brought my 24-70mm lens along and could not capture the shuttle in one shot, even though I was able to get a pretty wide angle. But that's okay. So there are quite a few for you here. I do have to mention, I'm really impressed with the lighting in the building because I was able to get great shots!
At times, I felt like I could reach out and touch the shuttle. You can see inside the cockpit.
As far as I know, it's the only Shuttle display in the country that has the Shuttle's payload doors open.
Pretty amazing right? Look at the wingspan!
A better shot of the payload doors open.
This photo just makes me smile!
A group photo of the astronauts in attendance for the grand opening!
The bottom of the Shuttle.
As you leave the exhibit, you get see underneath the Shuttle.
What an awesome experience this was. I have been telling all of my friends, you need to go! If you're planning a visit to the Central Florida area, be sure to stop by (an hour's drive from Orlando) and bring your kids. They will thank you!
This past weekend, Curtis' parents visited and we brought them to KSC to enjoy the exhibit and since we know we'll be going back over and over again, we bought annual passes (and so did his parents!). Atlantis: we'll be back to visit you from time to time. Friends who come to visit: be warned, we will be dragging you over to the Visitor Complex to check her out!
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the grand opening of the Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. All opinions are my own. There is one affiliate link in this post.