‘Atlantis’ Landed 12 Years Ago: Where Are the Space Shuttles Now?
NASA’s space shuttle program ended 12 years ago today when Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 21, 2011.
It ended 30 remarkable years of space shuttle missions that advanced the cause of science, constructed the International Space Station, and deployed and repaired the Hubble Space Telescope.
Though marvels of engineering and technology, the space shuttles were expensive to launch and maintain, and their complexity made them prone to failures. Challenger (OV-099) and its crew were lost during launch in 1986. Columbia (OV-102) and its crew were lost during reentry in 2003.
Following the completion of the ISS, the space shuttles were permanently retired, and Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour and Enterprise are now all museum artifacts. Here’s where you can see them:
Enterprise was a prototype orbiter that was the testbed for the space shuttles to come. (Yes, its name was inspired by Star Trek.) It was never launched from the ground, but was released at altitude from a Boeing 747 in 1977 to test atmospheric flight and landing. Enterprise is currently on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex Space Shuttle Pavilion in New York City.
Atlantis flew 33 missions from 1985-2011 and is now on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other exhibit. “Atlantis is displayed as only astronauts have seen her in space, rotated 43.21 degrees with payload doors open and Canadarm extended, as if just undocked from the International Space Station (ISS),” according to the KSC.
There were a total of 39 missions for Discovery from 1984-2011, and the orbiter is on exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum’s James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
The youngest orbiter in the space shuttle fleet, Endeavour flew 25 missions from 1992-2011. It currently resides in the California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Pavilion in Los Angeles. But it won’t be there for much longer. The new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center is under construction, and once complete, it show Endeavour in its “full stack” configuration with rocket boosters and external fuel tank. “In the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, Endeavour will be displayed in vertical “ready for launch” position as part of the world’s only complete Space Shuttle System. This will allow guests to get a closer and more detailed view of the orbiter than ever before,” according to the California Science Center.