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Space centre
Space age

“Is it real?” is the usual response when visitors see Space Shuttle Atlantis in its new $100m home at Kennedy Space Center, which opened on 29th June, as the COO tells us

By Kathleen Whyman | Published in Attractions Management 2013 issue 3


How did you win Space Shuttle Atlantis?
NASA put out a request for proposals from US museums and attractions that would be interested in displaying any of their shuttles. We’d been working on our proposal for years because we knew Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) would be a good home for it – every shuttle flew from Kennedy and half of them landed back here. Also, we already get a lot of people coming here to learn about space.

What does the Atlantis mean to KSCVC?
It’s the biggest thing we’ve done, both in size and cost – the Atlantis measures 122.17ft (37.25m) long and the attraction covers 90,000sq ft (8,361sq m) and cost $100m (E75.6m, £65.1m) to build. It means a lot to us to have nationwide and international attention because we’ve reminded people that America’s still very much in the space business and is preparing for a different space programme, using a different capsule for the astronauts to ride in.

The KSCVC is in Orlando so we’re competing with the theme parks. To get people to come and see us, we have to do some pretty big things now and again.

How’s the Atlantis being displayed?
We thought it’d be neat to show the shuttle as if it were in flight, so came up with the idea of suspending it. This way people can see the bottom and sides of the ship, the engines and the docking mechanism and all the things that are unique to a space vehicle. We’ve tilted it at a 43.21-degree angle with its nose 30ft (9m) from the floor and its left wing down slightly. The payload bay doors are open, so visitors can imagine they’re about to board and go into space.

What was the inspiration?
The people who worked on the Atlantis – who maintained it, prepared it for flight and brought it home – had a real relationship with the vehicle. The astronauts described that special moment when you first see the shuttle that’s going to take you into space. We wanted the average person to get a brief moment of what that must have been like.

What’s the experience?
We wanted people to engage with the shuttle rather than just stand and stare at it, so there are 167 simulators and exhibits in the building including four cinematic productions and a 16ft (5m)-long interactive media wall.

Visitors can experience the sensation of floating in space, sit on a space potty and test their skills at landing an orbiter, docking to the International Space Station (ISS), manipulating the Canadarm and repairing the Hubble telescope. Everyone knows that the Hubble telescope is far out in space taking amazing pictures, but no one knows what it looks like, so we’ve made a full size mock up of it. It’s 43ft (13m)-long and 14ft (4m)-wide and helps people understand how it operates and gets power.

Going from large to small, there’s a mock up of parts of the ISS for children to explore plus tyres from the last mission on display. When a tyre hits the runway at 220 miles an hour it gets chewed up pretty bad.

All of these exhibits complement the existing Shuttle Launch Experience – a realistic simulation of what it’s like to launch into space. We’ve married the Launch Experience and the new shuttle attraction together so visitors can see the shuttle, get the history, understand why it was made, participate in some of the experiences the astronauts did in training, then go and ride it off the launch pad. It’s a whole experience and people are really enjoying that.

What’s the most popular?
The Reveal Theatre is the one people talk about most. We show a film on the history of Atlantis on a large screen, which gives an emotional and visual sense of what it was like to be around the shuttle.

Then the screen opens and you’re staring at the shuttle from about 20ft away. It’s breath taking. Some people cry, others applaud, others are quiet and reverential. People come from all walks of life – they could be a labourer or the head of a company – and they’re all stunned.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Re-entry Slide that was built around the experience of coming in to land. It’s simple, but people love it. Some notable VIPs have asked to go on the slide – the NASA administrator went down it several times.

What have been the challenges?
It was challenging to get $100m together. The way our contract works with NASA means we have a trust fund that we used. We also secured a line of credit and we’ll pay it back through revenue generated by ticket, food and retail sales.

Moving and fitting the Atlantis was another challenge. The fitting was pretty tight – there were just a couple of inches between the edge of the building and the edge of the wing. We left the far side of the building open so we could roll the shuttle in, and then hoisted it in the air to tilt it. It took two weeks to get it in the right position. It weighs quite a bit [151,315 lbs], so we were nervous.

Getting the payload bay doors to stay open was particularly nerve wracking. They’re 60ft (18ft)-long and weigh 2,500 lbs each and aren’t made to be opened here on earth other than by NASA’s giant machinery, which we don’t have. Some engineers said they weren’t sure we’d be able to do it, but we did.

Once the Atlantis was installed, we had to finish the building. That was difficult because we had to make sure nothing touched the vehicle when we were painting, putting in sprinkler systems, air conditioning and electrics. We were doing that with this giant, priceless vehicle [the Atlantis orbiter is valued at $2bn (E1.5bn, £1.3bn)] in the middle of where we were working, which was a tense process.

How long did the project take?
We started planning four years ago, then spent 18 months building it.

The nuttiest thing we did was draw up the plans and get ready to build before we knew we were going to get the shuttle. That saved us a lot of time, as when we got the approval from the administrator, we were ready to start building.

What feedback have you had?
The commonest feedback is: “Is it real?” People haven’t seen one this close so don’t know what to expect. They expect it to be beat up, but it’s in great shape.


How it happened – The suppliers behind the attraction
PGAV Destinations
In 2010, PGAV developed a 10-year masterplan, which outlined and advised specific steps for Delaware North (operator of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex) regarding guest experience, food, retail, new attractions, and new NASA stories to tell.

PGAV were also the architects, exhibit designers, graphic designers, interior designers and media storytelling lead for Space Shuttle Atlantis.

In addition to NASA and PGAV, Delaware North’s other key partners have included:

* Electrosonic – provider of audiovisual systems
* BRPH – architecture, engineering design and construction
* Cortina Productions – media design, video and interactive experiences
* Design Island – multimedia concept and production
* projectiondesign – design and manufacture of high-performance projectors
* Guard-Lee Inc – provider of high-fidelity aerospace replicas and models
* Ivey’s Construction Inc – construction
* Mousetrappe – media-based design and production studio
* The Nassal Company – fabrication and installation of immersive
and themed environments
* Penwal Industries – designer, fabricator and installer of aerospace
and military models
* Unified Field Inc – interactive media, including multi-channel experiences
and digital branding campaigns
* Whiting-Turner – contracting and construction management services


NASA’s shuttle history
NASA’s first space shuttle launch was on April 12, 1981. Starting with Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, the spacecraft has carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station. The final space shuttle mission, STS-135, ended July 21, 2011 when Atlantis rolled to a stop at its home port, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Where are they now?

Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, New York

Discovery
The Udvar-Hazy Center, Virginia

Shuttle Endeavour
The California Science Center, LA

Shuttle Atlantis
Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida

The shuttle is displayed on an angle, as though in flight, so visitors can see the base and sides Credit: PHOTO: © kennedy space center visitor complex
The payload bay doors have been opened so visitors can imagine they’re about to board and go into space
The 90,000sq ft Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction cost $100m to build Credit: photo: fifthworldart.com
The new attraction is proving a hit with visitors of all ages Credit: photo: fifthworldart.com
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By combining lighting, video, scenic and architectural elements, sound and special effects we tell s [more...]
FORREC Ltd

We create guest experiences others don’t, masterplan like no one else can, and give the world’s bi [more...]
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FEATURED SUPPLIER

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Another year has passed, and we’re definitely happy with what we have accomplished in 2021! Find out more...
More videos:
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IAAPA Expo Europe Promo – International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)
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27-29 Sep 2022

International Congress on Thermal Tourism

Ourense, Ourense, Spain
13 Oct 2022

VAC 2022

The ICC Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
+ More diary  
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©Cybertrek 2022
Jobs    News   Products   Magazine
Space centre
Space age

“Is it real?” is the usual response when visitors see Space Shuttle Atlantis in its new $100m home at Kennedy Space Center, which opened on 29th June, as the COO tells us

By Kathleen Whyman | Published in Attractions Management 2013 issue 3


How did you win Space Shuttle Atlantis?
NASA put out a request for proposals from US museums and attractions that would be interested in displaying any of their shuttles. We’d been working on our proposal for years because we knew Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) would be a good home for it – every shuttle flew from Kennedy and half of them landed back here. Also, we already get a lot of people coming here to learn about space.

What does the Atlantis mean to KSCVC?
It’s the biggest thing we’ve done, both in size and cost – the Atlantis measures 122.17ft (37.25m) long and the attraction covers 90,000sq ft (8,361sq m) and cost $100m (E75.6m, £65.1m) to build. It means a lot to us to have nationwide and international attention because we’ve reminded people that America’s still very much in the space business and is preparing for a different space programme, using a different capsule for the astronauts to ride in.

The KSCVC is in Orlando so we’re competing with the theme parks. To get people to come and see us, we have to do some pretty big things now and again.

How’s the Atlantis being displayed?
We thought it’d be neat to show the shuttle as if it were in flight, so came up with the idea of suspending it. This way people can see the bottom and sides of the ship, the engines and the docking mechanism and all the things that are unique to a space vehicle. We’ve tilted it at a 43.21-degree angle with its nose 30ft (9m) from the floor and its left wing down slightly. The payload bay doors are open, so visitors can imagine they’re about to board and go into space.

What was the inspiration?
The people who worked on the Atlantis – who maintained it, prepared it for flight and brought it home – had a real relationship with the vehicle. The astronauts described that special moment when you first see the shuttle that’s going to take you into space. We wanted the average person to get a brief moment of what that must have been like.

What’s the experience?
We wanted people to engage with the shuttle rather than just stand and stare at it, so there are 167 simulators and exhibits in the building including four cinematic productions and a 16ft (5m)-long interactive media wall.

Visitors can experience the sensation of floating in space, sit on a space potty and test their skills at landing an orbiter, docking to the International Space Station (ISS), manipulating the Canadarm and repairing the Hubble telescope. Everyone knows that the Hubble telescope is far out in space taking amazing pictures, but no one knows what it looks like, so we’ve made a full size mock up of it. It’s 43ft (13m)-long and 14ft (4m)-wide and helps people understand how it operates and gets power.

Going from large to small, there’s a mock up of parts of the ISS for children to explore plus tyres from the last mission on display. When a tyre hits the runway at 220 miles an hour it gets chewed up pretty bad.

All of these exhibits complement the existing Shuttle Launch Experience – a realistic simulation of what it’s like to launch into space. We’ve married the Launch Experience and the new shuttle attraction together so visitors can see the shuttle, get the history, understand why it was made, participate in some of the experiences the astronauts did in training, then go and ride it off the launch pad. It’s a whole experience and people are really enjoying that.

What’s the most popular?
The Reveal Theatre is the one people talk about most. We show a film on the history of Atlantis on a large screen, which gives an emotional and visual sense of what it was like to be around the shuttle.

Then the screen opens and you’re staring at the shuttle from about 20ft away. It’s breath taking. Some people cry, others applaud, others are quiet and reverential. People come from all walks of life – they could be a labourer or the head of a company – and they’re all stunned.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Re-entry Slide that was built around the experience of coming in to land. It’s simple, but people love it. Some notable VIPs have asked to go on the slide – the NASA administrator went down it several times.

What have been the challenges?
It was challenging to get $100m together. The way our contract works with NASA means we have a trust fund that we used. We also secured a line of credit and we’ll pay it back through revenue generated by ticket, food and retail sales.

Moving and fitting the Atlantis was another challenge. The fitting was pretty tight – there were just a couple of inches between the edge of the building and the edge of the wing. We left the far side of the building open so we could roll the shuttle in, and then hoisted it in the air to tilt it. It took two weeks to get it in the right position. It weighs quite a bit [151,315 lbs], so we were nervous.

Getting the payload bay doors to stay open was particularly nerve wracking. They’re 60ft (18ft)-long and weigh 2,500 lbs each and aren’t made to be opened here on earth other than by NASA’s giant machinery, which we don’t have. Some engineers said they weren’t sure we’d be able to do it, but we did.

Once the Atlantis was installed, we had to finish the building. That was difficult because we had to make sure nothing touched the vehicle when we were painting, putting in sprinkler systems, air conditioning and electrics. We were doing that with this giant, priceless vehicle [the Atlantis orbiter is valued at $2bn (E1.5bn, £1.3bn)] in the middle of where we were working, which was a tense process.

How long did the project take?
We started planning four years ago, then spent 18 months building it.

The nuttiest thing we did was draw up the plans and get ready to build before we knew we were going to get the shuttle. That saved us a lot of time, as when we got the approval from the administrator, we were ready to start building.

What feedback have you had?
The commonest feedback is: “Is it real?” People haven’t seen one this close so don’t know what to expect. They expect it to be beat up, but it’s in great shape.


How it happened – The suppliers behind the attraction
PGAV Destinations
In 2010, PGAV developed a 10-year masterplan, which outlined and advised specific steps for Delaware North (operator of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex) regarding guest experience, food, retail, new attractions, and new NASA stories to tell.

PGAV were also the architects, exhibit designers, graphic designers, interior designers and media storytelling lead for Space Shuttle Atlantis.

In addition to NASA and PGAV, Delaware North’s other key partners have included:

* Electrosonic – provider of audiovisual systems
* BRPH – architecture, engineering design and construction
* Cortina Productions – media design, video and interactive experiences
* Design Island – multimedia concept and production
* projectiondesign – design and manufacture of high-performance projectors
* Guard-Lee Inc – provider of high-fidelity aerospace replicas and models
* Ivey’s Construction Inc – construction
* Mousetrappe – media-based design and production studio
* The Nassal Company – fabrication and installation of immersive
and themed environments
* Penwal Industries – designer, fabricator and installer of aerospace
and military models
* Unified Field Inc – interactive media, including multi-channel experiences
and digital branding campaigns
* Whiting-Turner – contracting and construction management services


NASA’s shuttle history
NASA’s first space shuttle launch was on April 12, 1981. Starting with Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, the spacecraft has carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station. The final space shuttle mission, STS-135, ended July 21, 2011 when Atlantis rolled to a stop at its home port, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Where are they now?

Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, New York

Discovery
The Udvar-Hazy Center, Virginia

Shuttle Endeavour
The California Science Center, LA

Shuttle Atlantis
Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida

The shuttle is displayed on an angle, as though in flight, so visitors can see the base and sides Credit: PHOTO: © kennedy space center visitor complex
The payload bay doors have been opened so visitors can imagine they’re about to board and go into space
The 90,000sq ft Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction cost $100m to build Credit: photo: fifthworldart.com
The new attraction is proving a hit with visitors of all ages Credit: photo: fifthworldart.com
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COMPANY PROFILES
Alterface

Alterface’s Creative Division team is seasoned in concept and ride development, as well as storyte [more...]
TechnoAlpin

TechnoAlpin is the world leader for snowmaking systems. Our product portfolio includes all different [more...]
Painting With Light

By combining lighting, video, scenic and architectural elements, sound and special effects we tell s [more...]
FORREC Ltd

We create guest experiences others don’t, masterplan like no one else can, and give the world’s bi [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

Attractions industry to reunite this September at IAAPA Expo Europe in London
For the first time in more than a decade, industry leaders from across the global attractions industry will once again gather in London as part of the annual IAAPA Expo Europe, the sector’s premier international event. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Red Raion Showreel 2021
Another year has passed, and we’re definitely happy with what we have accomplished in 2021! Find out more...
More videos:
Red Raion Showreel 2021 – Red Raion
ProSlide's all-in-one waterplay entertainment center – Proslide Tech Inc
IAAPA Expo Europe Promo – International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

27-29 Sep 2022

International Congress on Thermal Tourism

Ourense, Ourense, Spain
13 Oct 2022

VAC 2022

The ICC Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2022

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS