Washington: The last of NASA's retired spacecraft Atlantis slowly covered its historic last journey to its final resting place after the US space agency ended its 30-year shuttle program in 2011. The shuttle made its 15.8 kilometres journey on Friday from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, permanently to a visitor centre where it will be put for public display in a $100 million hall due to open in July.
Accompanied by astronauts and shuttle workers, the shuttle left the Space Centre for the final time at 6.30 am, aboard a 76-wheel apparatus, travelling over land at a speed of 3.2 kmph. "I think that the shuttle was a great book, it really was, and this little part is like the epilogue," commander of the last Atlantis mission Chris Ferguson said. "She's truly a testament to American ingenuity." the former astronaut said.
The vehicle will be displayed as if in flight, tilted at an angle of 43.21 degrees, with its payload bay open and robotic arm extended. Atlantis, the youngest of the shuttles, was the last of NASA's three surviving shuttles to retire when it completed its final flight on July 21, 2011.
Atlantis was launched to space 33 times, including 12 missions to the International Space Station, after it began its first mission on October 3, 1985, where it docked with the Russian space station Mir and spent four days in space delivering classified cargo. Atlantis has orbited Earth 4,848 times travelling 202,673,974 kilometres. The shuttle has spent just over 305 days in space and carried 195 crew members to space.
The space shuttles 'Discovery' is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F Udvar-Hazy Centre in Virginia, and 'Endeavour' is retired at the California Science Centre in Los Angeles. NASA is retaining ownership of Atlantis, but the cost of its move and exhibit is being financed without public funds.