|My first sight of Atlantis in the Orbiter Processing Facility. It was in this hangar that the vehicle has been readied for its 2010 May mission, STS 132.|
|Atlantis is towed backwards out of the Orbiter Processing Facility.|
|Atlantis' yellow towing dolly is now visible as it emerges into the ealy morning sunshine. Notice that the Orbiter's wheels are retracted, and the Vehicle sits on structural attachments of the dolly.|
|Atlantis is turned to face east, ready to head towards the Vehicle Assembly Building.|
|The easterly roll begins.|
|One very used spaceship. Cockpit window covers will be removed before flight.|
|The yellow supports on the payoad bay doors will also be removed on the launch pad before flight.|
|This banner has been signed by the workers who prepared Atlantis for flight. The pride of the workers chosen to carry the banner was very much in evidence.|
|The tow truck drivers.|
|Atlantis' nose, with high temperature nose cone and heat tiles, and covered thruster ports.|
|Covered thruster ports on Atlantis' nose. These thrusters are used in space to control the attitude of the spacecraft. The covers will be removed before launch.|
|The structural attachment point under Atlantis' nose.|
|Side hatch, for crew entry to and exit from the Atlantis' Mid Deck.|
|It was a crack in this wing leading edge thermal insulation that led to the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia during its reentry into the atmosphere on the STS 107 mission.|
|Further out along the Atlantis' wing leading edge.|
|Vertical stabiliser and rudder/speed brakes.|
|Wing tip and elevon.|
|Body flap and main engines.|
|Although we were allowed very close to Atlantis, it was definitely a "look, don't touch policy." This bloke was there to protect the orbiter, not me!.|
But let's get back to Tuesday, April 13. I was up at 5 am in order to get to Kennedy Space Center by 6:30 am. Dog sniff for explosives in our equipment, then onto "Thomas" for short predawn drive around the Vehicle Assembly Building and the mobile launch platform to one of the Orbiter Processing Facility buildings.
As the sun rose behind us, the doors of the Orbiter Processing Facility opened and Atlantis slowly emerged backwards into the sunshine. A turn and she was soon slowly rolling past us toward the Vehicle Assembly Building, preceded by workers carrying a wide banner: "We are with You Atlantis."
At this time we were standing outside the building where the thermal insulation tiles are prepared - the Thermal Protection System Facility. Many of its workers were outside watching and taking photos, some with their mobile camera phones. Suddenly the outside tannoy burst into life, with a call to these workers to attend an urgent staff meeting. Some of us media chuckled, and I commented that this was a thinly disguised attempt to get the folks back to work. Anyway, it had the desired effect, as the workers reluctantly went inside and closed the emergency exit door they had used to gain access to our viewing area.
Then, at 8:30 am, the Orbiter stopped.
Normally the rollover from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the Vehicle Assembly Building, a distance of about 200 metres, takes only about half of an hour. This time she was put on proud display for several hours so workers could admire her. Many group photographs were taken.
|Atlantis pauses after being backed out of the Orbiter Procesing Facility. The building's north-west corner is in the background. In a few minutes the Orbiter will begin moving toward the Vehicle Assembly Building.|
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Text, images and audio Copyright to Andrew Rennnie, 2010