The marvelous life of a historic space shuttle

The space shuttle Atlantis first launched in 1985, logging 33 missions and more than 125 million miles during its years in service. This piece of cosmic history is now on display at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and tells the tale of NASA’s 30 year space shuttle program.

TRANSCRIPT

THE SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS FIRST LAUNCHED IN 1985, LOGGING 33 MISSIONS AND MORE THAN 125 MILLION MILES DURING ITS YEARS IN SERVICE.

THIS PIECE OF COSMIC HISTORY IS NOW ON DISPLAY AT FLORIDA'S KENNEDY SPACE CENTER.

IT TELLS THE TALE OF NASA'S 30-YEAR SPACE-SHUTTLE PROGRAM.

TAKE A LOOK.

ON BEHALF OF THE GREATEST TEAM IN THE WORLD, GOOD LUCK TO YOU AND YOUR CREW ON THE FINAL FLIGHT OF THIS TRUE AMERICAN ICON.

LET'S LIGHT THIS FIRE ONE MORE TIME, MIKE, AND WITNESS THIS GREAT NATION AT ITS BEST.

THE CREW OF ATLANTIS IS READY FOR LAUNCH.

ALL THREE ENGINES UP AND BURNING.

...2, 1, 0.

AND LIFTOFF.

THE FINAL LIFTOFF OF ATLANTIS.

ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE, AMERICAN WILL CONTINUE THE DREAM.

THIS FINAL MISSION OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM WAS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE FIRST.

THE SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM FIRST LAUNCHED APRIL 12, 1981, WITH THE ORBITER COLUMBIA.

IT WAS A SUCCESSFUL MISSION, AND FROM THERE THERE WERE 135 TOTAL MISSIONS FOR THE SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM.

THE PROGRAM LASTED 30 YEARS.

COMBINED, THE SHUTTLES LOGGED OVER 513 MILLION MILES.

ONE OF THE SHUTTLE ORBITERS, THE ATLANTIS, IS NOW ON DISPLAY AT THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITORS COMPLEX IN FLORIDA.

SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS TAKES GUESTS ON AN EMOTIONAL JOURNEY, FROM THE PRESENTATIONS THAT YOU SEE AS YOU ENTER THE AREA TO THE REVEAL OF SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS.

FOR SOME PEOPLE, THEY CRY.

FOR OTHERS, THEY CHEER.

BUT ONE THING IS FOR CERTAIN -- YOU'RE JUST AMAZED WHEN YOU FIRST SEE ATLANTIS.

AND IT'S BEING ABLE TO LOOK AT ATLANTIS UP CLOSE.

YOU CAN GET SO CLOSE YOU ALMOST FEEL LIKE YOU CAN TOUCH THIS SPACECRAFT THAT'S FLOWN ON 33 MISSIONS AND TRAVELED FOR MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF MILES.

THERE ARE MORE THAN 60 INTERACTIVE DISPLAYS AND SIMULATORS THAT YOU CAN DO TO BE THE ASTRONAUT.

OR LOOK AT DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF FLYING A SHUTTLE, LANDING THE SHUTTLE, DOCKING WITH THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO FLEW THE SHUTTLE ORBITERS WENT THROUGH RIGOROUS TRAINING TO PREPARE FOR THEIR MISSIONS.

IN 1978, TEST PILOT FRED GREGORY DECIDED TO JOIN THE TEAM.

AS A TEST PILOT, I JUST SAW AN ADVERTISEMENT IN A MAGAZINE ONE DAY THAT SAID 'APPLY FOR THE SHUTTLE PROGRAM.

BE AN ASTRONAUT.'

AND I LOOKED AT IT AND SAID, 'WELL, IT'S SOMETHING TO DO.'

PRIVILEGED TO FLY ON THREE DIFFERENT MISSIONS.

I WAS THE PILOT ON THE ORBITER CHALLENGER, COMMANDED THE ORBITER DISCOVERY, AND I COMMANDED THIS GREAT VEHICLE BEHIND ME, THE ATLANTIS.

TO LIFT THE ATLANTIS, ITS CREW, AND PAYLOAD INTO SPACE IS NO SMALL FEAT.

THE VEHICLE, FULLY-LOADED ON THE LAUNCH PAD, WEIGH ABOUT 4.5 MILLION POUNDS, SO YOU NEED MORE THRUST THAN THE WEIGHT OF THE VEHICLE TO GET IT OFF THE GROUND.

AND LIFTOFF BY SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS.

WITH THE SOLID ROCKET BOOSTERS, THE BIG THREE ENGINES ON THE BACK END OF THE ORBITER, ALTOGETHER THEY GENERATE NEARLY 7 MILLION POUNDS OF THRUST.

SO THAT IS MUCH GREATER THAN THE 4.5 MILLION POUNDS OF WEIGHT.

DURING LAUNCH, NUMEROUS SYSTEMS WORK TOGETHER TO SEND THE SHUTTLE SKYWARD.

WE SPEND ABOUT 85% OF OUR TRAINING FOR FAILURES, SO THAT WE WOULD BE ABLE TO SURVIVE.

WELL, THESE VEHICLES WERE SO WELL THOUGHT OUT THAT WHEN WE GO TO SPACE, WE'RE SITTING AND WAITING FOR A FAILURE BUT NOTHING EVER FAILS.

WHAT YOU END UP WITH IS A CREW THAT'S LAUGHING AND -- AND JUST SCREAMING, AND JUST HAVING A FANTASTIC TIME DURING THAT 8.5 MINUTES IT TAKES TO GET UP TO SPACE.

AND WE GET THERE, AND IT'S LIKE, 'WHOO! WE'RE HERE!'

[ LAUGHS ]

ONE OF THE PRIMARY PURPOSES OF THE SHUTTLES WAS TO DELIVER CARGO TO HELP BUILD THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

I'VE ALWAYS SAID IT'S LIKE AN 18-WHEELER, A TRACTOR-TRAILER.

YOU HAVE THE CAB IN THE FRONT, WHICH IS WHERE THE DRIVER WOULD SIT, AND THEN YOU HAVE THE CREW MODULE IN THE FRONT OF THE ORBITER WHERE THE CREW IS RESIDENT.

BEHIND THE CAB IS THE TRAILER.

BEHIND THE CREW MODULE IS THE PAYLOAD BAY.

THE JOURNEY TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION IS FILLED WITH ANTICIPATION.

YOU WOULD FIRST PICK IT UP ON RADAR.

AND AS YOU GET CLOSER AND CLOSER, THEN IT IS A DOT.

AND THEN IT GETS LARGER AND LARGER.

AND THEN, AS YOU GET VERY CLOSE TO IT, YOU CAN ACTUALLY WAVE AT YOUR FRIEND WHO'S INSIDE THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

AND THEN YOU MERELY JUST GO IN AND DOCK, AND THERE'S THE OPENING OF THE HATCH, AND EVERYBODY'S JUST EXCITED.

THE ATLANTIS ALSO PLAYED A PART IN DEPLOYING SATELLITES, ROBOTIC INTERPLANETARY EXPLORERS LIKE MAGELLAN AND GALILEO, AND SO MUCH MORE.

ATLANTIS CONDUCTED THE FINAL REPAIR AND SERVICING MISSION FOR THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE, AND THAT WAS BACK IN 2009 ON STS-125.

WE WERE ABLE TO EXTEND THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE'S LIFE-SPAN THROUGH 2014 AND BEYOND.

ALTHOUGH USUALLY BUSY, ASTRONAUTS DO HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO REFLECT ON THE VIEW FROM OUTER SPACE.

A GREAT NUMBER OF THEM WILL LOOK OUT IN THE HEAVENS.

AND THEY'RE LOOKING OUT AT SUNS.

AND WE'VE NOW DISCOVERED THAT THERE ARE NOW PLANETS THAT CIRCLE THESE SUNS.

AND WE'VE DISCOVERED NOW THAT THERE ARE SOME PLANETS THAT ARE VERY SIMILAR TO EARTH.

AND WHEN I LOOK OUT INTO THE HEAVENS, I'M LOOKING AT WHERE WE CAN JOURNEY AND WHERE WE CAN LEARN AND WHERE WE CAN MEET A FRIEND FROM OUT THERE SOME PLACE.

WE'VE GOT FOLKS WHO LOOK AT THE EARTH ALL THE TIME.

I CAN THOSE DIRT PEOPLE.

AND THEY LOOK DOWN, AND THEY'RE SEEING THINGS THAT ARE OCCURRING RIGHT NOW.

EVERY JOURNEY ENDS BY SLOWING DOWN THE SHUTTLE FROM ITS 17,500 MILE PER HOUR ORBITAL SPEED SO THAT GRAVITY CAN BRING IT HOME.

WHEN WE ENTER THE ATMOSPHERE, WHICH IS ABOUT 400,000 FEET ABOVE THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH, THEN WE BEGIN TO TRANSITION AND PHASE FROM THESE ROCKETS BACK THE AERODYNAMIC SURFACES THAT WE'RE ALL KIND OF USED TO.

THE LANDING OF THE ORBITER IS VERY SIMILAR TO A GLIDER.

ONCE WE'VE DONE THE ORBIT BURN, THERE'S NO OTHER PROPULSION SYSTEM.

IT IS AN AMAZING 30-YEAR HISTORY.

135 SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCHES, EVERY ONE LAUNCHED FROM RIGHT HERE.

AND WE'RE PROUD OF THAT PROGRAM.

AND I THINK WHEN PEOPLE COME TO THIS PARTICULAR CENTER AND SEE THIS DISPLAY AND EXPERIENCE IT, THEY GO HOME AND SAY, 'YOU KNOW, THIS IS IMPORTANT.

LOOK AT MY KIDS, LOOK AT THAT BRIGHTNESS IN THEIR EYES.

I IMAGINE THAT ONE DAY THAT MY DAUGHTER IS GONNA COMMAND A MISSION TO BE THE FIRST ON MARS.'