Space shuttle Atlantis’ final journey to retirement is down broad
industrial avenues, most of them off-limits to the public. So Friday’s
trek won’t replicate the narrow, stop-and-go turns Endeavour encountered
last month while navigating downtown Los Angeles.
The mastermind behind Atlantis’ slow 10-mile march through Kennedy Space Center is sweating bullets nonetheless.
is the last of NASA’s space shuttles to hit the road. It was the last
to blast into orbit, more than a year ago, and its final crew members
were expected to join a few dozen other astronauts at Friday’s daylong
"It’s only a priceless artifact driving 9.8 miles and it
weighs 164,000 pounds,” said Tim Macy, director of project development
and construction for Kennedy’s visitor complex operator Delaware North
"Other than that, no pressure at all,” Macy said, laughing.
"Only the eyes of the country and the world and everybody at NASA is
watching us. But we don’t feel any pressure.” He paused. "Of course, we
The relocation of Atlantis has been plotted out for months, he noted, and experienced shuttle workers will take part.
"It’s not like it’s Tim and his buddies out here loading this up,” Macy said last week. "We’re using the expertise of NASA.”
will travel a mere 2 mph atop a 76-wheeled platform. The roundabout
loop will take the shuttle past Kennedy’s headquarters building for a
ceremony and then to a still-under-design industrial park for public
viewing. Tourist tickets run as high as $90 apiece for a chance to see
the spaceship up close.
Crews removed 120 light poles, 23 traffic
signals and 56 traffic signs in order for Atlantis to squeeze by. One
high-voltage power line also had to come down. Staff trimmed back some
scrub pines, but there was none of the widespread tree-axing that
occurred in Los Angeles.
Atlantis will traverse just one incline, a highway ramp. The rest of the course is sea-level flat.
grand entrance into Atlantis’ new home also should be smooth going. One
complete wall of the exhibit hall was kept off, carport-style, so the
shuttle could roll right in. Construction will begin on the missing wall
early next week.
Once safely inside, Atlantis will be
plastic-wrapped for protection until the building is completed. The
grand opening is set for July 2013.
Total exhibit cost: $100 million, a price borne by Delaware North.
the oldest and most traveled space shuttle, was the first to leave the
nest, zooming off to the Smithsonian in Virginia in April atop a
modified jumbo jet. Endeavour, the baby of the fleet, headed west in