Mission Day 16: One in, one out

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Kennedy Space Center will be busy tonight. As Space Shuttle Endeavour glides in through the earth’s atmosphere, Space Shuttle Atlantis will be rolling out to it’s launch pad. It’s fairly rare for these two events to occur at the same time but it’s fairly fitting/lucky that it should happen for the final two Shuttles.

If you’re planning on watching either, Atlantis’ rollout it starts at 0100 BST and will take approximately 8 hours and Endeavour’s first landing attempt is planned for 0736 BST. So if you’re bored at breakfast flick over to NASA TV to see some beasty machinery being put thought it’s paces I’m hoping NASA has cameras lined up to catch the view of them both in shot.

Once Endeavour’s on the ground it will go through largely the same process that Discovery has already gone though. After being ‘safed’ engineers will slowly begin to drain pipes, pull out engines and make the shuttle ready for public display.

After tonight there will never be another space shuttle in the Vehicle Assembly Building (provided Atlantis doesn’t suffer any major set backs). The fourth largest building in the world (by volume) will be empty for at least a couple of years while NASA takes it’s time to move on from the Shuttle era.

I got the chance to walk round the building a couple of months ago and I honestly think it will be a funny old place when it’s without a purpose, a bit like when a large shop closes and you catch a glimpse of the remains from the inside. But i have no doubt it will be used again, it’s been converted before (the image below shows one of the smaller hangers used to store stage 2 of the old Saturn V rockets before stacking), it will be converted again.

If you’re too busy to watch it live you’ll find the video of the landing and the no doubt amazing time-lapse of the final rollout to the launch pad on the blog tomorrow. And don’t forget…

There’ll be a post about that too.

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