By Carl Kotala

The Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit is the crown jewel in a 10-year master plan by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts that will change the look and feel of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Telling the history of the Atlantis program and its 33 missions required capturing the emotion of all of the people who worked on it — from the astronauts to the technicians and even the people who towed the shuttle back to the Orbiter Processing Facility.

The attraction, in all of its six-story, 90,000-square feet of glory, is now open and gives visitors an unprecedented look at the space shuttle itself, while also telling the story of the shuttle program and all of its magnificent accomplishments.

The shuttle is displayed with its payload bay doors open, its robotic arm extended and it is rotated in a 43-degree angle to showcase the view astronauts at the International Space Station would see.

To enhance that visual, there are more than 60 interactive exhibits. From visual spectacles to hands-on displays, the Space Shuttle Atlantis experience has the stuff to attract all kinds of visitors and teach them about how the Shuttle Program not only got off the ground, but also about its amazing accomplishments from the Hubble Telescope to the International Space Station and all of the satellites it helped bring up — and bring back — from space.

Part of the “wow factor” of the Shuttle Exhibit is an entryway that features a full-scale external tank and two solid rocket boosters. The exter- nal tank is suspended 24 feet off the ground and mounted between the two solid rocket boosters, reaching over 185 feet into the air.

Freestanding pods recreate components of the International Space Station, including upside-down astronaut sleeping quarters and the space potty.