The Shuttle Atlantis Rolls Over

NASA04Last Tuesday, I got up before dawn to arrive at NASA to shoot the crews moving the space shuttle Atlantis from a hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where it would be fitted to the external tank and solid rocket boosters in advance of a November launch.

NASA02As the sun rose and the air heated up on an unseasonably hot October morning, the shuttle rolled along at a snail’s pace, on top of a specially designed truck.

Dozens of people were there to watch the roll over, and their enthusiasm was infectious. To launch a shuttle, it takes teams of people to handle everything from the mission and payload, to the tiles that protect the vehicle from extreme heat on re-entry. And folks from all the various elements of the mission came to watch this journey of a hundred yards.

NASA03Some held banners for photos in front of the orbiter as it inched toward the VAB.

Inside the VAB, the shuttle is fitted into a harness and lifted off the truck.

Cranes, operated from a booth more than 400 feet above the VAB floor, will lift the shuttle up 16 stories and over to the waiting tank and booster assembly.

I was there to interview the crane operator in the VAB. That story releases Friday, when I’ll tell you all about it.