Monday, May 23, 2011

Atlantis on Deck

With Space Shuttle Endeavour in space completing its final missions, the shuttle Atlantis has been moved in to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in preparation for the final shuttle mission, STS-135, on July 8 around 11:40 AM EDT.

Atlantis rolls over from the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-1, at right) processing hanger to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB, at left) at KSC for the STS-135 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer

A wonderful set of photos has been uploaded of this transition. You can really see some of the wear and tear on the shuttle. You also get an impression of the massive scale of things. You can find another set here.

The all veteran STS-135 crew poses with Atlantis during rollover to the VAB. Credit: Ken Kremer

If you don't know much about the VAB, located at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, here are a couple facts:
  1. It's the fourth largest building in the world by volume
  2. The largest single-story building in the world
  3. Originally built to allow vertical assembly of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo program, the space shuttles were designed around the building's doors.
  4. The painted American flag on the building's exterior is one of the world's largest, the blue area is the size of a basketball court and each stripe is the width of a standard road lane.
  5. The building has withstood several direct encounters with hurricanes and tropical storms with minimal damage, with a foundation consisting of 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 4,225 steel rods driven 160 feet into limestone bedrock.
  6. The four doors to the bays inside the building are the four largest doors in the world. At 456 feet (139.0 m) high, it takes 45 minutes for the doors to completely close or open.
  7. The building is so vast inside, it has its own weather. Rain clouds have formed beneath the ceiling on very humid days. The air can be completely replaced in an hour to keep moisture under control.
Aerial view of the VAB. Credit: NASA

As you can see, the building itself is a technological marvel and an asset to the space program. Despite the end of the shuttle missions, the building will remain a key asset. It will continue to be used in the assembly of rockets for space missions. For further reading on the VAB, check out NASA's page on it, or its Wikipedia article.

P.S. I had mentioned that our cat, Bella, was in the animal hospital. Things looked bad, so we made the tough choice. She is no longer with us, and I will miss the sweet little darling, it is part of life though. We were able to say our goodbyes before she went, which is a relief, if heart-breaking.


28 comments:

Kicking Rocks said...

I should go there one day, its really close!

The Angry Lurker said...

Good post, is the end of the shuttle program the end of the space program?
Sorry about the cat.

G said...

It'll be sad when they finally stop flying

Dave said...

It's sad that the shuttle missions are coming to an end. I hope though that it's the beginning of new ventures by NASA.

Astronomy Pirate said...

@Angry Lurker, No it's not the end of the space program. The space program is the totality of all the national space missions, including satellites and such. Those will still require use of the VAB. The VAB just won't see any more shuttles passing through its massive doors.

thenitefalls said...

I live near the Kennedy Space Center, I have to go there one day to explore outer space :D

Malkavian said...

DAAAAAAAAAAMN thats awesome, also. "it takes 45 minutes for the doors to completely close or open." FUUUUUUUUUU thats something like out of a Comic book or something. NASA never ceases to astonish i mean with all the ctubacks it has had in its budget it is still amazing what they can come up with.

Zombie said...

Sad to see a piece of history be retired.

Aaron M. Gipson said...

My condolences for the loss of your friend Bella, I know you love cats about as much as I do...

I lived in Florida almost my whole life, and never got a chance to see the shuttle launch. I really feel as though I have missed out on something huge. And it is endlessly depressing to know that the end of the shuttle program is now upon us...

MRanthrope said...

wow, awesome building is AWESOME. Bummer about your cat though =/ sorry.

Jay said...

indoor rain? sounds awesome! (although in practice it really isn't).

BigMike said...

I watched a time laps video of them letting this happen. Turning off the AC and the upper air heats quickly and the humidity begins to run down the walls as actual clouds form, and then a light mist started raining down... they turned on the AC again and it cleared up like the end of a sci-fi movie when the storm clouds roll away... kinda freaky.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

RIP Bella.

Hopefully the space program gets revived soon though.

HiFi said...

Sorry about your cat man. Pets are so adorable that losing one breaks my heart. I visited the Kennedy Space center back when I was 12 I think. All I remember was the warm weather and seeing an awesome space shuttle.

A Beer for the Shower said...

That's a very cool building. I bet it'd be fun to visit.

Also, sorry to hear about the loss of the cat. I don't know what I'll do when I lose mine. They become such great companions. Don't tell anyone I said that, though. I'll lose my man card. Oh, this is on the Internet. Man card - revoked.

Moobeat said...

cool post

Speedy Ed said...

ah i'd love to go there and see all that !

phthalo. said...

Sorry about your cat. Also sorry to see the end of the shuttle. Onwards and upwards though, as they say.

The Viking said...

Very interesting article about Atlantis and the VAB :)

Alphabeta said...

Cool facts.

Sorry about your kitty. : [

Banacek said...

I hope they update those ugly blue coveralls someday too.

bruno said...

HUGE...

Kamchatka said...

Space travel is always interesting

Atley said...

is Nasa really going to stop thier program? Is somebody going to pick it up? It can't come to an end! thats crazy!

Buckaroopopcorn said...

Seems I was right to suspect the US had a replacement already. There is also a shuttle troop transport too: http://bit.ly/dQLx8m

Rob said...

We're always learning something somewhere, Apparently Space is not the trendy thing to throw funding at, LHC and quantum mechanics are what people keep looking at now.

Shame, because I love space.

Astronomy Pirate said...

Space isn't over yet, and will always be there.

Also, Buck, that's a bit old. That's not even big enough to transport many troops. But I could see it being modified to carry a small team, essentially space marines.

Necroticism said...

Damn astronauts, they think that they can park their ride anywhere -.-

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated, please no advertising or profanity. This also helps me see who is dropping by.