Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction opens at Kennedy Space Center - WFLA News Channel 8

Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction opens at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (WFLA) -

After 26 years and nearly 126 million miles the Space Shuttle Atlantis is home and ready for all to see. The 100 ton spaceship is mounted above the floor with its payload bay doors open and a video projection of earth behind it, giving the illusion that it is floating in space.

Retired astronaut Jim Reilly flew aboard Atlantis to the International Space Station. Reilly says it is bitter sweet seeing Atlantis on the ground for good.

"She had a lot of years left on her. She's just as good today as she was the first day she flew but we made that decision and she's now on display. But the sweet part is everybody can see Atlantis in a way that only we saw her," said Reilly.

Platforms around the spacecraft allow visitors to see Atlantis from many different angles.

Also on display here is a full-size replica of the Hubble Space Telescope. The space observatory is still returning images of distance galaxies.

Tim Macy, the project director for the Atlantis attraction says this attraction is the story of the space shuttle program.

"We want to wow you when you come in but we also really want to tell the story," Macy said.

A full size replica of the external tank and solid rocket boosters that once carried the orbiter into space points towards the sky at the entrance to the attraction.

Throughout the exhibit are displays of what it is like living and working in space. The kids seem to be very interested in the replica shuttle toilet. 

Many of the hands on displays are geared towards children. They have a slide that teaches them how the shuttle lands. They also have virtual reality games, flight simulators and a crawl trough playground of the International Space Station.

Chris Byrne and his family are from Pinellas County and were able to see Atlantis early during its soft open.

Byrne says, "When you see something like that you're like wow. Kids can grow up and actually think of things to make something like this and get it to work and then put it back here to inspire more kids."

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