Grounded Space Shuttle Atlantis Rolls Slowly to Its New Home [PICS]

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Ready to Roll

Photo Credit: NASA

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If I close my eyes, I can still almost feel the chest-rumbling launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis I witnessed in person two-and-a-half years ago. I stood just a few miles away as it rocketed off into space on its penultimate mission (STS-132). That was among the few awe-inspiring Shuttle moments left to us, because we knew the manned program’s days were numbered. On Friday, I watched from a far greater distance (online) as Atlantis rolled quietly and slowly to its final destination as a show piece at the Kennedy Space Center.

Throughout the year, the rest of the shuttle fleet has been flown and rolled to various museums around the country. The Enterprise (a test unit that never made it into space), which is already situated at New York City’s Intrepid Air and Space Museum, made news again this week when its dome home was blown down by Hurricane Sandy.

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Atlantis's second-to-last launch

Atlantis first flew in 1985 and made its final mission in July 2011. The orbiter is making its final 10-mile journey in Florida, which will take all day, atop the giant, 76-wheel orbiter transfer system vehicle.

It left Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building early Friday morning and will settle in a 90,000 square foot custom museum space. The hall only has three of its four walls built so NASA can roll the shuttle in and then enclose it inside the museum by building the fourth wall. Apparently, they plan on shrink-wrapping Atlantis to protect it from construction debris.

The museum will open to the public in July 2013.

NASA’s capturing every moment of Atlantis’s final journey (which includes two ceremonial stops) and we grabbed some of the best images for the slideshow above.

This story originally published on Mashable here.

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