November 01, 2012, 4:55 PM — The space shuttle Atlantis worked hard during its career, flying a total of 156 different crew members on 33 missions from 1985 to 2011.
And now it's time for a well-earned retirement.
On Friday, NASA's third and last operating space shuttle, moves 10 miles down the street from the Kennedy Space Center to its final home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Merritt Island in Florida.
Motorists traveling along the route tomorrow should be able to spot the shuttle's hat poking above the steering wheel as it travels 40 mph on the highway.
Actually, it won't be traveling nearly that fast (nor will it be behind the wheel). Atlantis will be transported on a 76-wheel vehicle over a 12-hour period, with a NASA ceremony, viewing opportunities for the public and a couple of bathroom stops scheduled along the way.
And talk about high maintenance! According to Reuters, "To make way for Atlantis (which is 122 feet long and 78 feet wide), crews have temporarily removed 120 light poles, 23 traffic signals, 66 road signs and one high-voltage power line."
Plus it will insist that all those damn kids along the way stop making so much noise.
Once at its new home, Atlantis will hang from the ceiling of the visitor complex. The shuttle weighs 154,000 pounds (without its three main engines), so I for one will not be standing under it.
During its illustrious and hard-working career, Atlantis circled the Earth 4,848 times, stubbornly refusing to ask for directions. In terms of distance, that equates to almost 126 million miles of space travel.
It took more than four years for Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division to build Atlantis.
Fellow retired space shuttle Endeavor was moved on Oct. 14 to its retirement home at the California Science Center. The third remaining shuttle, Discovery, is on display at a National Air and Space Museum facility in Virginia.
Here's wishing all the space shuttles a long and happy retirement.