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Kennedy Space Center – Shuttle Plaza/Atlantis Orbiter


Rating: T/C
Type: Real shuttle model
Time: Continuous viewing with the possibility of long waits
Short Take: Not yet open at press time

The full-scale model of the space shuttle that stood for years on this spot was removed shortly before press time to make room for the real thing. The actual Space Shuttle Atlantis orbiter, decommissioned into a museum piece after the end of the shuttle program, will live here starting sometime in 2013. Plans call for a $100 million, 65,000-square-foot indoor display facility, including interactive features on accomplishments of the shuttle program like the International Space Station and Hubble Telescope.

Assuming the presentation of the orbiter itself remains similar, the opportunity to be close enough to touch a real space shuttle is impressive. But don't be surprised if you find a visit a bit of a letdown, especially if you've had to wait 40 minutes or an hour for a glimpse. What stuck me most about the old exhibit was how cramped the space allotted to the crew is. Not even a New York landlord would have the gall to call this a studio apartment. Guided tours of the Shuttle Plaza area, which also contains two booster rockets, are offered from time to time.

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