Wow...just wow.  The folks here at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) have outdone themselves with the Atlantis exhibit.  It is nothing short of phenomenal, although as an extreme space geek I am likely a bit biased. 

Atlantis is housed in its own building, its easy to spot with the SRB and main tank stack sitting out front. Once you enter there are two films, one with background on the Space Shuttle program development up to the first launch.  Then film two is in a second room with a great IMAX style wrap around projection.  There is some great mission video and then the big reveal.....  I won't spoil it for you but its awesome and very well done.  Might have brought tears to my eyes, but I will never confirm it. 

Transporting the audience through time and space....back to when the Space Shuttles flew.....

And there she is......

 The last landing of Atlantis. 

The last landing of Atlantis. 

Atlantis.  Mounted on her side with the bay doors open and Aurora on a projection screen behind.  33 missions over 26 years carrying 207 astronauts 126 million miles over 307 days in space.

I stood in awe and studied the details for the rest of the afternoon.  The docent Mike, who used to be Director of Center Operations at KSC, was rather amused I think that I was there for nearly four hours, time flies when your having fun I suppose.  

Surrounding Atlantis are a plethora of interactive and interesting exhibits on the Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station (ISS) and the Hubble Space Telescope. Even a re-entry slide and some mission simulators. There is really a lot to do and see here and no offense to the California Science Center where Endeavor is housed....but this blows that exhibit away. Its definitely a must see if you are anywhere on planet Earth and have a love of space.

Detail image of the crew hatch with rescue instructions.  Thats NASA, safety first.  

The harsh realities of space flight can be seen on the forward RCS thrusters. 

Another view of the forward RCS thrusters.

The thermal blankets around the main engine gimbals was for acoustic dampening.  The final attachment threading was all sewn by hand. Thank you to Jean for sharing all this wonderful information.

Detail image of small aft thrusters.

The viewing platform wraps around the orbiter offering great views.  The doors are too fragile to open in Earth gravity so were supported by cables to prevent damage.

Detail image of the gimbling main engine mounts on the back of the orbiter. Amazing technology in this image, panels capable of handling thousands of degrees on re-entry, engines with internal temperatures reaching 6000 deg F, computer controlled thrust vectoring to ensure stable flight on launch.  With over 2.5 million parts, the Space Shuttle truly is an engineering marvel. 

Thermal blankets over the OMS engine pod.  The blankets were hand stitched together to prevent fraying around the edges from aerodynamic buffeting.

Space Shuttle Main engine, the pattern of inlets help reduce stress on the nozzle.

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