Photography of Roy Thoman

Space Shuttle Atlantis

My wife Robbie and I recently had the opportunity to visit Space Shuttle Atlantis in her new home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

In preparation of Atlantis’ arrival, the Visitor Complex underwent a facelift. From the new entrance, to the new building that houses Atlantis. At the entrance to the Atlantis exhibit there is a replica external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters that are huge! From Titusville looking across the Indian River at an actual Space Shuttle on the launch pad you really needed to strain your eyes to see the darn thing. The new replica tank and SRB’s can easily be seen from almost anyplace in Titusville. They make a very striking entrance to the new exhibit. After watching the construction and Atlantis moving from the Space Center to the Visitor Complex it was very interesting to see how it all came together. I think they did a fantastic job!

Visiting Atlantis 007

Once inside the exhibit visitors are treated to an entertaining, humorous, and informative short video about the history of rockets.

Visiting Atlantis 008

Visiting Atlantis 009

Visitors are then moved into an amazing theater. A video of Atlantis launching and working in space is projected onto  the walls and ceiling of the theater. You can feel the vibration as Atlantis thunders into space. It’s really amazing to watch.

Visiting Atlantis 010

As the theater fades to a black star filled sky, a large door opens and you find yourself face to face with the real Atlantis.

Visiting Atlantis 011

As you walk out of the theater, Atlantis is looking you in the eye. She is very proud of the many accomplishments that were made in her 26  years of service.

(click on an image to see larger images)

The upper level of the exhibit is filled with information about Atlantis and the 33 missions that Atlantis flew. On one of her missions, Atlantis and her crew repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. Getting a good view of Atlantis from any angle imaginable is not the only thing  to see. There is a shuttle cockpit mockup where you get to see what it was like to fly a shuttle. There are very cool interactive displays. In one of them you are looking at a video of an astronaut during a space walk. Then you become the astronaut. As you move your hand the astronaut moves his hand using a tool to make a repair.

Visiting Atlantis 032

Behind Atlantis there is a HUGE video screen with images of the Space Station and astronauts making space walks. You don’t need to use too much imagination to feel like you are in space with Atlantis.

Visiting Atlantis 024

Looking from the upper level down to the lower level, you get a good look at the belly of the beast. Also you may be wondering, how do I get down there? You have several options. One you could take the elevator, or…

You could take the eery red hallway! Or even better, you can do what we did, and take the way cool sliding board to the lower level! That was fun!

Before you head down the slide, you may want to take a tour of the model International Space Station. It’s like a habitrail for humans. You get a feeling of what it’s like to spend some time in the Space Station. There is a bit of a thrill as you encounter a clear tube 30ft or so above the floor. The girl in the photo was hesitant to cross the gap. I think a push from her friend got her moving through the tube.

Once you make it to the lower level, aside from seeing Atlantis flying over your head, there are many more things to see. I’m not sure I saw everything. There are more interactive simulators, where you can land an orbiter, aka shuttle, or use the robotic arm. They have the Airstream Astrovan on display that carried the astronauts to the launch pad. I’ve always thought the Astrovan was pretty cool. There are lots of things to see and do at the new Atlantis exhibit. We had a great time! Oh, and don’t worry since you need to exit through the gift shop, you will be able to pick up a memento, or two, of your visit with Atlantis. So grab your favorite Atlantis T-shirt and come see Atlantis in her new home!

29 responses

  1. Thanks for the tour.


    September 23, 2013 at 8:42 pm

  2. Fantastic captures! It looks like you had a fun and interesting time. Thanks for sharing. 😀


    September 23, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    • Thank You Jackie! It is a very interesting place to visit for sure.


      September 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm

  3. Thanks for the virtual tour. 🙂


    September 23, 2013 at 11:11 pm

  4. Don

    Roy, this was absolutely wonderful. Thank you. I would love to see this one day. Your images were just so good and engaging.


    September 23, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    • Thanks Don! If you ever get this way it would be a great place to visit.


      September 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

  5. What an exciting place to visit. Seems like it really is the next best thing to actually being in space!


    September 24, 2013 at 12:42 am

    • Thank You Gallivanta! It really was like you were in space. I have watched several shuttle launches, and the video in the way cool theater is almost like seeing a live launch. Since there will never be another shuttle launch it will be as close and you can get to a live launch.


      September 27, 2013 at 7:28 pm

  6. It’s absolutely wonderful.Thanks for sharing!


    September 24, 2013 at 6:28 am

    • Thank you Praveena! I’m glad that you enjoyed Atlantis.


      September 27, 2013 at 7:31 pm

  7. Thanks for sharing this amazing tour.


    September 28, 2013 at 6:09 am

  8. It’s as if I was there. Amazing clarity to your photos, and great byline. The eerie red hallway looked like it might lead right to Mars! NASA could seriously use this to promote…um…NASA!


    September 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    • Thank You Charron! The eerie red hallway may go to Mars! You may want to take the elevator. That’s the same thing my mom said. I thought she just said it cuz she is my mom. So NASA, need some photos? 🙂


      September 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm

  9. LB

    I absolutelyy would have taken the blue slide!! How fun! I love all the photos, especially the one of Atlantis looking us in the eye. Thanks for taking us along on the tour.


    October 1, 2013 at 3:48 am

    • Thanks LB! Oh yes I’m sure you would take the slide! IT was fun! The photo of Atlantis looking you in the eye is one of my favorites too! Atlantis seems to have personality in that image.


      October 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm

  10. Hey, thanks for the great commentary and descriptive pictures.


    October 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    • Your welcome enman! We had a fun day!


      October 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm

  11. Cool photos- very interesting tour. Thanks!


    October 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    • Thanks Jane! I’m lad that you enjoyed the tour and the photos.


      October 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm

  12. Ed

    Excellent post and pics, made me feel like a kid again. I need to get down there..:-)


    October 12, 2013 at 3:46 am

    • Thanks Ed! I’m glad I was able to make you think of your youth. Yes you should give the Space Center a visit, I’m sure you would enjoy it.


      November 3, 2013 at 9:02 pm

  13. Thanks for showing me that place.
    I’m a fan of the shuttles since their first flight in 1981, when I was a young boy…
    A few weeks ago I’ve seen Gravity in cinema, and then I reminded of passed times, when I had to play with my kids. I searched for it and I found it:
    Ok, a little fun today for me… 😉


    October 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    • Your welcome autopict! It is a great place to visit. I am a big fan of the shuttles too. I was able to see all of the shuttle launches since 2004. I have not seen Gravity yet, I want to see it though. Nice job on your shuttle orbiting earth!:)


      November 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm

  14. How cool! Being of a certain age, I can well remember how mind blowing the concept of the shuttle was. A reusable space craft! I had the pleasure of seeing one launch back in the early nineties, on a visit to Florida, and one land during our second visit ten years later, cool.


    November 11, 2013 at 3:26 am

    • Yes Rachael, The launches were great to watch. I got to see several. The landings were pretty cool too. If you get back to FL, you should check out the KSC Visitor Complex.


      November 11, 2013 at 9:42 pm

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