Saturday, July 6, 2013

Where Are the Space Shuttles Now?

With the recent opening of the Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, all the retired space shuttles had found their final resting place. Although I am not a particularly huge fan of the space shuttles (for some of reasons read this article), they do represent a huge part of space history, and that is undeniable. Therefore, I thought it would be a worthwhile effort to collect where they are now.


Explorer is somewhat of a cuckoo in the nest because It is not a flight capable shuttle but a high-fidelity replica. It was built for the Kennedy Space Center as an exhibition item, based on real NASA blueprints, and later moved to Houston when the KSC received its real space shuttle. It is currently sitting in an outdoor display area in the Johnson Space Center in Houston, but plans to move it indoors as part of a larger space shuttle exhibit are under consideration. Interestingly, the JSC recently launched a contest to rename the shuttle. Apparently they did not like the name Explorer...


Although never actually flown in space, Enterprise was a working space shuttle NASA used in early flight tests. After years at the National Air and Space Museum's in Virginia, Enterprise was moved to New York City’s Intrepid Air and Space Museum. Considering the limited space on the ship--the Intrepid is an aircraft carrier later transformed into a museum--Enterprise is displayed in a canvas pavillion on deck. The exhibit was damaged during the hurricane Sandy but is expected to reopen in July, 2013.

Fun fact: the shuttle received its name after Captain Kirk’s iconic star ship in the Star Trek universe


Discovery replaced Enterprise in the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, near Washington D.C. It is currently displayed in the museum’s space-wing with other space-related artifacts. The space shuttle supposedly depicts the moments after landing, but really, it is just a fancy way of saying the museum did not want to bother with a more elaborate exhibit, which is a shame really.


In October, 2012, after a long and arduous journey through the Los Angeles suburbs, the space shuttle Endeavour arrived at the California Space Center. The shuttle’s permanent home, where it will be displayed vertically, on a full-scale rocket with boosters, is currently under construction and expected to be finished in 2017. Until then, Endeavour is on display at the temporary Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion.


As far as exhibits go, without a doubt Atlantis won the best spot among all the space shuttles--at least until the Los Angeles exhibit is still under construction. Occupying a brand new pavillion at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the space shuttle Atlantis is displayed in a tilted angle as if it were “floating” in space. With the multi-level structure of the exhibit, visitors are able to inspect the shuttle’s exterior from top to bottom as well as look into the open payload bay. With the help of special lighting and a huge projection of the Earth above, it is currently the most spectacular of all the shuttle exhibits.

All images courtesy of NASA!

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