Make us your home page
Instagram

Space shuttle Atlantis exhibit to open at Kennedy Space Center

BY SUSAN THURSTON

Times Staff Writer

TITUSVILLE — Don't tell employees at the Kennedy Space Center the U.S. space program is grounded. Quite the contrary, they say, pointing to the latest rocket launches and deep-space missions.

For an example of a major investment, they talk up the $100 million home of the space shuttle Atlantis, opening to the public June 29.

The 90,000-square-foot exhibit building will house the Atlantis and tell the story of NASA's 30-year shuttle program through dozens of interactive exhibits and simulators. Visitors will be able to get within feet of the shuttle, artfully displayed 26 feet off the ground and rotated 43 degrees as if it were flying.

The orbiter is big and impressive and still dirty with asteroid dust. If it looks like it's been to hell and back, that's because it probably has been. The shuttle traveled 125 million miles during 33 missions before reaching its final resting spot at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The Atlantis is the star of a 10-year master plan for the complex operated by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts. The center recently completed construction of a $16 million entry plaza, gift shop and restaurant and added closeup tours of the Kennedy Space Center launch pad and vehicle assembly building — areas that had not been open to the public in decades. In March, it opened the Angry Birds Space Encounter.

The Atlantis exhibit significantly expands the existing Space Launch Experience on the complex's eastern edge. Guests will walk into the building under a 184-foot gateway made up of two full-size solid rocket boosters and an orange external fuel tank.

Inside, visitors will watch two 10-minute multimedia presentations about the history of the shuttle program and its importance. A 40-foot screen will rise to the ceiling, dramatically revealing the Atlantis in a darkened room with an image of earth behind it.

Designers created the exhibit for all ages and interest levels. A slide, space walk simulators and crawl-through mini International Space Station cater to young astronauts in training. Launch pad equipment and a replica of the Hubble Space Telescope (which was launched into orbit by shuttle Discovery) appeal to aeronautical fans. Everyone exits through a gift shop.

Also included is the Angry Birds Space Encounter, an attraction developed in partnership with Rovio Entertainment, creators of the wildly popular red birds video games.

The 4,485-square-foot indoor attraction has six interactive stations that bring to life characters from the games. Visitors can shoot space pigs with a slingshot, walk through a mirrored labyrinth or create their own digital Angry Bird. Players also can compete in the Red Planet laser challenge, ducking over and under light beams in search of golden eggs. Activities cater to children ages 6 to 14 but are suitable for most ages.

Also new is the Visitor Complex entrance area, with self-service kiosks, a will-call station and gift shop, which doesn't require park admission. Central to the expanded plaza is a 75-foot-long fountain honoring the late President John F. Kennedy, the space center's namesake.

For history and space buffs, the center recently added a Mega Tour of the space shuttle launch pad area and vehicle assembly building. The tours give a detailed look at how the shuttles were built and transported by "crawler'' to the launch pad. The tours take over two hours and are packed with information rather than thrills, meaning young kids might get antsy. Tickets are $40 for adults and $30 for children.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

IF YOU GO

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Atlantis exhibit is included in the cost of admission to the Visitor Complex, which is $50 per adult and $40 per child ages 3 to 11. Parking is $10. Annual passes are $63 for adults and $53 for children and include free parking and discounts on food and merchandise. Call toll-free 1-877-313-2610 or go to kennedyspacecenter.com.

INSIDER TIP!

The Commander's Club annual

pass is one of the cheapest and best theme park deals around. It's $63 for adults and $53 for children — $13 more than a one-day ticket — and includes free parking and admission to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, plus discounts on merchandise and invitations to special events.

Space shuttle Atlantis exhibit to open at Kennedy Space Center 05/22/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013 5:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. ‘80s acts dominate lineup of 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

    Blogs

    Oh, yes. Christmas is coming early this year to ‘80s fans in Florida. Disney’s Epcot Center has announced the lineup to its “Eat to the Beat” concert series that coincides with their annual International Food & Wine Festival.

  4. Equality Florida leader honored at Tampa U2 concert

    Briefs

    TAMPA — Equality Florida director Nadine Smith couldn't attend last week's U2 concert in Tampa, but she can tell you which of her friends had great seats for the June 14 show at Raymond James Stadium.

    Nadine Smith, Equality Florida founder and CEO, received a unique distinction last week when U2 included her in a montage of photos saluting activism and women leaders.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 23

    Events

    Leslie Odom Jr.: A solo concert by the Broadway star who won a Tony for his performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. 7 p.m., Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $35.50-$55.50. (813) 229-7827.

    Leslie Odom Jr. accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical in "Hamilton"  during the 70th Annual Tony Awards  on June 12, 2016.  (Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)