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Atlantis rolls to its new home

On a slow crawl on top of the 76-wheel Orbiter Transporter System (OTS), the retired space shuttle Atlantis on Friday began its 12-hour trip from the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), its workplace of almost 30 years.

The shuttle will be housed at the center's visitor complex. A custom-built $100 million exhibit scheduled to open in 2013 will include high-tech displays showcasing the shuttle's years of contributions to the space program.

Here, space shuttle Atlantis moves down the Kennedy Parkway on its 76-wheeled orbiter transporter system on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. In the background is the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building.

Caption:Photo:Kim Shiflett/NASA
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Atlantis rolls from the VAB

The move began at about 6:30 a.m. Friday morning with the shuttle backing out of Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building. Atlantis moved past the Orbiter Processing Facility hangars, which once were the home of NASA's space shuttle fleet. Atlantis was also scheduled to make two ceremonial stops along the way so employees of the Kennedy Space Center, and then the public, could pay tribute to the historic shuttle.

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A festive send-off

The day's fanfare included a marching band, shuttle workers, and astronauts on hand to see the shuttle off.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a veteran of Atlantis' STS-45, said the shuttle program's 30 years of accomplishments continued the space agency on a path of groundbreaking exploration.

In 2009, Atlantis conducted the last servicing mission to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, outfitting the groundbreaking observatory with new sensors and the hardware it would need to remain functional. In 1995, Atlantis became a high-profile symbol of cooperation when it docked with the Russian space station Mir. Z. Pearlman
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Front heat shield

The shuttle will be moved to an under-construction facility at Kennedy scheduled to be opened to the public in 2013. Construction of the gigantic exhibit hall for Atlantis began in January in anticipation of needing to be able to keep the priceless artifact safe while the building is finished around the shuttle.

With a 78-foot-wide wingspan and a tail that reaches more than five stories, the spacecraft was too big to be rolled into a completed museum wing. Z. Pearlman
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Shuttle engines

An up-close look at the shuttle Atlantis' engines as it is prepped to be moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building into the museum being built at the Kennedy Space Center. Z. Pearlman
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Heat-reflecting tiles

A close-up view of Atlantis' heat-reflecting tiles. Z. Pearlman
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Atlantis outside the VAB

The space shuttle Atlantis outside the VAB on Friday morning as it began the 9.8-mile trip to its new museum facility. Z. Pearlman
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A stop at Exploration Park

Atlantis' trip on Friday included a three-hour stop at Exploration Park outside Kennedy's gates where those who purchased tickets had an opportunity visit with the shuttle. Z. Pearlman
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Shuttle on the VAB

The space shuttle Atlantis on board its transport vehicle, the 76-wheel Orbiter Transporter System (OTS). Z. Pearlman
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Atlantis up close

During the journey to the exhibit hall at the Kennedy Space Center, the shuttle convoy stopped at Exploration Park for a few hours where visitors could see the gigantic spacecraft up close. Z. Pearlman
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A tight squeeze

Atlantis will be rolled in through the open side of the exhibit hall, and workers will quickly erect the fourth wall to close it in. Although it covers 90,000 square feet, the exhibit hall will require workers' close attention since there will be a mere 6-inch clearance in some places. Z. Pearlman
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