Friday 19 April 2024

Where to see the retired space shuttles

Recently I shared some of the things that I saw on our recent trip to New York and Washington, and I mentioned that we had now seen all of the retired space shuttles. I thought I'd put together a post about where all the space shuttles can now be seen, as they are awesome to see in person! The best thing is that they are all displayed in different ways to showcase their various features and uses, so even though the shuttles themselves are similar you can learn new things about them as you see each one.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the museum has gone to a lot of effort to showcase its star attraction. The shuttle is housed in a separate building, fronted by the massive familiar orange external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Before seeing the shuttle you go through several exhibits, including a short film about the history of the space shuttle programme and how the shuttle was conceived and developed. The final film is displayed on a floor to ceiling screen, and at the end the screen rises quickly to reveal the space shuttle suspended in front of you, tilted as though flying through space.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

The shuttle is displayed with the payload doors open and the Canadarm extended, and as you walk closer you can get a really good feel for how it would have looked while carrying out a mission.

Space Shuttle Atlantis with Canadarm extended

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington D.C. in a large hanger, along with lots of other impressive air and spacecraft. It's displayed resting on the ground with the landing wheels down. There's just a low barrier all around it, and it's so close that you almost feel as though you could just reach out and touch it! It's really interesting to be able to have a good look at how the wheels slotted into place underneath the shuttle.

Space Shuttle Discovery on display in Washington

Space Shuttle Endeavour (currently off display)

Endeavour is currently stored at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. We saw it in 2018 when it was in a temporary home, suspended in the air in a large hanger above the heads of the visitors. Unfortunately at the moment it is off display, as it is in the process of being moved to a new part of the museum - the Samual Oschin Air and Space Center. When open, it will be the only place in the world that you'll be able to see a complete Space Shuttle System with a flown orbiter as the shuttle will be displayed upright, attached to the rocket boosters and external fuel tank ready for launch. It looks as though the museum is expected to open next year (2025) and I would love to be able to go back and see it again in its new home!

Space Shuttle Endeavour in Los Angeles

Space Shuttle Enterprise

Space Shuttle Enterprise is on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. It's housed in a separate, covered display area at the far end of the museum, and be prepared to wait in line for a little while if you visit on a busy day. Space Shuttle Enterprise is the only shuttle that didn't actually fly in space, it was used for atmospheric test flights. 

You can view the shuttle from a raised walkway around the front of the shuttle, so you can get a good look at the windscreen and heat shields.

Space Shuttle Enterprise at Intrepid Museum in New York

Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia

Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight in 1986, killing all seven crew members aboard - the first fatal accident involving an American spacecraft in flight. Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere in 2003, also killing all seven crew members. (There was a recent three part documentary 'The Space Shuttle that Fell to Earth' which was excellent in telling the story of what happened in the Columbia disaster, it's available to watch on BBC iPlayer.)

You can see some pieces recovered from both shuttles at the 'Forever Remembered' memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, along with personal items and stories from the crew members. There are also memorials to the astronauts of the Challenger and the Columbia at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Finally there are two more shuttle experiences that we've not yet managed:

Space Shuttle Pathfinder (test simulator)

Not a real space shuttle, the Space Shuttle Pathfinder was a space shuttle test simulator made of steel and wood, and it's about the same size, weight and shape as an actual orbiter. You can see it on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and this is definitely somewhere that we would love to visit one day. 

Space Shuttle Independence (replica) - formerly known as Explorer

Space Shuttle Independence is a full scale space shuttle replica. It was formerly on display at the Kennedy Space Center and can now be seen at the Space Center Houston (another place that we would love to visit). It's displayed in Independence Plaza, mounted on the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. Visitors can enter both the shuttle and the plane, which sounds amazing.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow! My youngest and fella love all things space so would love to see the shuttles. They all look amazing and so interesting.


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