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It took a lot of work to get a space shuttle ready for lift-off. Even after the tear-down and rebuild that happened after each shuttle landing, you still had to use massive cranes and vehicles just to get the finished spacecraft into launch position. The short film The Last Roll-Out speeds up this weeks-long process and gives you one last look at a fueled-up Atlantis headed for the launch pad on the final mission of the space shuttle program.
The Last Roll-Out takes us from the shuttle processing facility where each orbiter is completely stripped and rebuilt, to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Here the massive cranes that have already joined the solid rocket boosters to the massive external fuel tank (ET) make way for the mechanism that lifts Atlantis vertically high into the air. It’s from here that the space shuttle is mated to the ET and eventually makes its way out to the launch pad on the gigantic crawler-transporter.
Whatever your feelings about the shuttle program and its absence, it was truly a modern marvel of engineering. The next time you make it to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, make sure you go on one of the tours of the Vehicle Assembly Building that are now available to the public. Believe it or not, the interior of the VAB seems way more massive in person than on any of the pics or video you may have seen of it before. Once you see it with your own eyes, it will definitely put NASA’s accomplishments with the space shuttle program over the past 30 years into perspective.
We will eventually replace the space shuttle’s capability of taking humans into outer space, but so far, nothing in development will even come close to the awesome sight of these vehicles getting prepped and ready for launch.