On Wednesday, January 18, 2012, Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Inc. and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center broke ground on the future home of the space shuttle Atlantis to be located at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. In April 2011, NASA announced its selection of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to permanently display the space shuttle. Atlantis, one of three orbiters in the space shuttle fleet, flew a last scheduled space shuttle mission before being retired in 2011.
"We are honored to design the future home for Atlantis,” states Mike Konzen, Principal PGAV Destinations. “We anticipate that thousands of people who worked on the Space Shuttle Program as well as millions of visitors from around the world will enjoy being so close to this national treasure.”
The $100 million, 65,000 square-foot Atlantis exhibit will be the marquee feature of the Visitor Complex’s 10-year master plan, completed by PGAV Destinations on behalf of Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which has operated Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for NASA since 1995.The exhibit will provide guests an extraordinary and unique opportunity to view Atlantis up close and “in flight.” Guests will learn how the spacecraft worked in space as well as the story of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program, through a number of hands on, interactive and immersive mediums.
The exterior of the Atlantis exhibit will be comprised of two sweeping architectural elements, or “wings” representing the space shuttle’s launch and return. The outer layer of the building will be cloaked in iridescent hues of orange and gold, representing the fiery-glow of reentry. The taller, internal wing of the building will be covered in a shimmering tile pattern in varying tones of gray, designed to represent the tiled underside of the orbiter.
At the entrance to the exhibit, guests will be greeted by a full-size, upright, replica external tank and two solid rocket boosters. On the opposite side of the tank and booster assembly, a silhouette of the orbiter is attached to illustrate its exact size and placement. A 184-foot-tall space shuttle stack will give visitors a true sense of the massive size and awesome power used to thrust the space shuttle into low-earth orbit. Atlantis will be shown with payload bay doors open and the Canadarm extended. In the distance, a sliver of sunrise is revealed as the orbiter emerges from the far side of its 90-minute orbit around the earth.
“This is an incredible day for our nation’s space program,” stated Bill Moore, Chief Operating Officer, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, at the groundbreaking ceremony with a host of dignitaries, including space and tourism industry representatives, and astronauts.
“Today marks the start of a new era in which this magnificent ship, Atlantis, which has traveled to space and back an astounding 33 times, will remain docked in her home port, displayed in all her glory with a new mission to uphold — to inspire a new generation of space explorers who will take us to even greater heights. We are extremely proud and excited to break ground today on what will be the crown jewel of our 10-year master plan for Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.”
The grand opening of the showcase facility is slated for summer 2013. Constructed by Whiting-Turner Contracting Company in Orlando, the six-story exhibit will be located in the Shuttle Plaza adjacent to the existing Shuttle Launch Experience.
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