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Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit ready to amaze visitors (pictures)

NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis tells the story of the space program at its new home in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
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Atlantis has a new home

After 33 missions into space, NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis has a new home. The shuttle is part of a new $100 million exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex which will immerse visitors in the space experience.

The exhibit opens June 29 and will weave first-hand accounts from astronauts and flight engineers, along with the history of NASA, into 60 interactive displays. The displays will touch on everything from launches and orbits to how a space station is assembled.

But the centerpiece of the exhibit is Atlantis. Visitors will be able to get an up-close, 360-degree view of one of the world's first reusable spacecraft. Robert Z. Pearlman of collectSpace.com recently toured the exhibit during a preview of the grand opening.
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Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

In November 2012, Atlantis was moved to center's visitor complex aboard the 76-wheel Orbiter Transporter System. It took around 12 hours to move the shuttle 9.8 miles from the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building to its new exhibit facility.

An 184-foot-tall, full-scale replica of the Atlantis' solid rocket boosters and external tank sits at the entryway to the exhibit building at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
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Suspended 30 feet in the air

Atlantis is suspended 30 feet in the air and angled 43 degrees to one side to let visitors tour every detail of the shuttle.
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Cargo doors open

With the cargo doors opened and the shuttle tilted, visitors can get a good view of the interior as well.
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Atlantis' main engines

As visitors walk around, along, and under the shuttle they can get a close-up look at its main engines, which once burned at 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit and emitted exhaust traveling Mach 10.
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Underside of Atlantis

The angle of the shuttle gives visitors the chance to see the underbelly and the thermal protection system.
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Frozen in space

CollectSpace's Robert Perlman recently toured the exhibit and wrote: "With its payload bay open and a replica of its Canadarm robotic arm extended, Atlantis looks less like a museum's static display than it does a still active vehicle, somehow frozen in place, as if it could soar back into orbit at any time."
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Hubble Space Telescope

The interactive, multimedia experience looks at other details of NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle Program, including the history of the International Space Station and the development of the Hubble Space Telescope.
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Hubble Space Telescope model

Suspended 63 feet in the air, a full-size Hubble Space Telescope model hovers over guests on the lower floor of the new Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit.
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Space station mockup

There's even a one-fifth scale mockup of the International Space Station. Visitors can crawl through tubes that are suspended 26 feet in the air, simulating a spacewalk, to get to the model.
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Space walk simulation

The spacewalk simulating tube 26 feet up.
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Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Opening June 29, the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit is the new home of a priceless, historic spacecraft that tells the incredible story of NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program. The 90,000 square-foot attraction is the marquee element of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's 10-year master plan.

NASA on the space shuttle program: "One of the most complicated and sophisticated pieces of equipment ever built, the shuttle is a vehicle that launched like a rocket, flew in orbit like a spacecraft and landed on a runway like a glider."

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