Space Shuttle Home Nears Completion In Florida

Space Shuttle Atlantis has a new home in Florida that is nearing completion. As the latest Space Coast attraction, the new $100-million home of the historic spacecraft will launch June 29 at Kennedy Space Center. Far more than a place to store the used orbiter, the new facility will offer visitors unprecedented access to what was once highly classified hardware, uniquely displayed.

This unique experience delivers extraordinary access to Space Shuttle Atlantis, positioned as if it were in space as only astronauts have seen it before. Suspended 30 feet above ground and rotated at slightly less than a 45-degree angle, Atlantis will have her payload bay doors open and robotic arm (Canadarm) extended. Visitors will be able to view the orbiter from below or via a raised surrounding platform.

With 33 missions in space to the credit of Space Shuttle Atlantis, the exterior has been left as-is for visitors to see the wear on its protective external tiles. Over 60 supporting and interactive exhibits plus high-tech simulators tell the story of NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program and the amazing engineering that transformed the way humans explore space. Prominently featured is the shuttle program’s role in building the International Space Station as well as the launch and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope.While the newest attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex, Atlantis is just one feature to be enjoyed by visitors. The Shuttle Launch Experience simulates what it is like to blast off into space. The Rocket Garden features Redstone, Atlas and Titan rockets that first put NASA astronauts in space, alongside Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules. The Astronaut Training Experience brings visitors realistic astronaut training.

Other exhibits trace the history of America’s space program from its beginning and get into the future of space exploration. Far from a relic of another time and a different NASA focus, the Atlantis exhibit promises to complete an experience that fans of space travel may have only dreamed of until now.

Better yet, the Kennedy Space Center website has a rich array of interactive content including a “countdown until the next launch” timer and an Ask An Astronaut feature that invites visitors to pose questions to those who have actually been there and done that.

About the only part of the space shuttle program that visitors won’t see is an actual launch, but we have one of those for you here in this video:

[Image credit – Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex]

Space Shuttle Now Officially A Tourist Attraction

Space Shuttle Atlantis arrived this week at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to begin life as the star of a $100 million exhibit called the Shuttle Launch Experience, expected to open in July 2013. It was the historic final journey of a space shuttle orbiter, signaling the beginning of life after space for the shuttle fleet.

“We think visitors to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be awed and inspired by how they will see and experience Atlantis,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in a statement.

Atlantis completed its historic final journey led by 30 former astronauts who joined the orbiter for the final leg of the trip. Parked in front of the last open wall of the 90,000-square-foot exhibit building, Atlantis will be encapsulated in a protective wrap while that wall is completed.

Once inside the visitor’s complex, Atlantis will be raised 36 feet off the ground then rotated about 43 degrees to mimic spaceflight. On display, its payload bay doors will be open and the robotic arm extended.

Along with Atlantis, the Shuttle Launch Experience will have over 60 interactive, immersive exhibits about the entire shuttle program including a 363-foot-long Apollo/Saturn V rocket and other unique space artifacts.

At the entrance to the Shuttle Launch Experience, guests will walk past a full-size external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters. Strategically positioned, a silhouette of the orbiter is attached to show guests the exact size and placement of the 184-foot-tall space shuttle.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. Admission includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour, the new Shuttle Launch Experience, 3-D IMAX space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, featuring historic spacecraft and personal astronaut memorabilia. For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit

Right now and through November 12, the space center is offering a sneak peek, up-close and personal look at Atlantis as part of any tour. During scheduled times, a Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex tour guide will take guests through the construction zone and allow guests to take pictures and pose within the secured area.

NASA has spread around the tourism wealth by positioning remaining orbiters around the country. Enterprise is at the Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, Discovery is at
Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Virginia and Endeavour is at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California.

[Photo Credit: NASA photo]

Delos: the birthplace of a Greek god

An ancient theater on the Greek island of Delos has received funding for a major renovation. The Greek government has earmarked 1.5 million euros ($2 million) to make the site more attractive for the thousands of tourists who visit it every year.

Delos was an important religious site in ancient Greece, being the purported birthplace of Apollo. Delos is one of the smallest of the Cyclades Islands, which are a favorite destination for many travelers for their historical importance and natural beauty.

The theater was finished in 250 B.C., and constructed entirely of marble. It could seat up to 6,500 people and it may be used as a theater again once the restoration is completed. Restoration work will include putting together the jigsaw puzzle of many broken pieces of marble, clearing away the plants that have grown on the site and providing drainage to minimize water damage.

The entire island of Delos is one of Greece’s seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is rich with archaeological remains. Archaeologists from the French School at Athens have been excavating at Delos since 1872 and are still making major finds. One of the most attractive is the Sacred Way leading to the sanctuary of Apollo. The road is flanked with carved lions, much the way sacred paths in Egypt were flanked with sphinxes. Besides Apollo’s sanctuary, there were also spaces set aside as sacred to Dionysus. Several giant phallic symbols sacred to the god of wine and partying have been found. You can see a couple in the photo gallery below.

Sumptuous mosaics have been discovered in many of the buildings as well as statues and richly painted pottery. Many of these finds are displayed in the local museum, one of the best in Greece.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


Product review – BlueMax sunrise system dawn simulator

Back in November of last year I introduced you to the Philps GoLite Blu. In that review I also gave a brief description of the benefits of using specially tuned light to combat the effects of jetlag.

In this product review I’m going to show you a different light therapy product; the BlueMax Sunrise System Model 320.

The BlueMax model 320 is a light therapy device intended for leaving at home – unlike the Philips GoLite which was suitable for bringing on your next trip. This doesn’t mean you can’t travel with the BlueMax, its size just doesn’t make it too suitable for packing.

The BlueMax is about 10 inches high and 5 inches wide. On the front of the device is a large frosted window, a backlit LCD display and various buttons for controlling the light and setting the time and light timers.

Behind the frosted window are a large number of very bright long-life LED lights. When powered on, the unit provides specially tuned light in the correct wavelength to fix your circadian rhythm, which should help reduce jetlag. In my personal experience, the concept works very well, and I’ve been using light therapy for several years to help get my brain wired correctly again. Light therapy also works quite well if the lack of sun is affecting your mood, especially in the darker winter months.
The BlueMax has a very impressive number of features combined with its light system. Besides the usual timed light therapy sessions, it can also create a simulated dawn, using the lights to wake you in the morning, which means you can wake to soothing light instead of a loud buzzer.

The unit can also do the opposite – a simulated sunset to help you fall asleep, which is handy if you need to get sleep earlier than your usual routine.

The device also features a randomizer system, which is great if you want to create the impression that you are away from home.

The BlueMax model 320 comes complete with an international power adapter which includes cables for the US, Europe and the United Kingdom. It is priced at $169, which may be a little out of line for someone who only travels once a year, but anyone who regularly arrives back home and suffers for days through jetlag will quickly learn to appreciate their investment.

Orion’s Belt and one of the best places for looking up

Orion’s Belt is a winter pleasure if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. These stars that tell the tale of the hunter Orion, the love object of Artemis, Apollo’s twin sister, are fairly easy to pick out once someone has shown you where to look.

Over at Jaunted, Kitts Peak National Observatory at Tohono O’odham Reservation in Arizona is given a heads up as being one fantastic place to see the night sky. The reservation is surrounded by desert, thus has one of the ingredients necessary for stellar star-gazing. No city lights.

Instead, there is a vast sky and a well-organized observatory where the experience is not just a matter of peering in a telescope to see what’s up there up close, but a lesson in how to read star charts and use binoculars to star-gaze as well. Since it’s an hour out of Tuscon, the included boxed dinner is a nice touch. The telescopes are powerful enough to see planets. If you go, one thing to check out is the Advanced Optical Program where you can take CCD images of what you see up there with the observatory’s equipment. [Click here for images.]