Last look inside space shuttle Atlantis

Submitterator vetran collectSPACE tells us:

collectSPACE had the rare opportunity recently to tour NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis to photograph its preparation for museum display and capture its glass cockpit powered and lit for one of its last times.

The photo gallery starts on Atlantis’ flight deck, and then proceeds to its now mostly empty middeck, out into and above the 60-foot payload bay, and then around and under the winged spacecraft.

Their gallery is gorgeous, and really appropriately shows the complexity of the space shuttle's controls. It hadn't occurred to me until now how little of the space shuttle I've seen.

Rare, last look inside space shuttle Atlantis - collectSPACE


  1. A good museum display would keep it lit. Maybe even have simulated readings. Alas it will probably be left dark.

    1. It’s my understanding that museum displays will keep the orbiters far away from a visitor’s touch, let alone allow them inside to see the cockpit.

  2. That is so beautiful!  And its beauty comes from its functionality and esthetics.  I could sit in those seats for hours just looking at all the controls and displays.

  3. What’s really fascinating is that most of the instruments you see did not even exist when Atlantis was first launched in 1985.  Flat-screen instruments weren’t even a gleam in an engineer’s eye back then.

    Wow did they make some major mods.

    1. The way they made the mods is also fascinating.  Atlantis launched, as did the entire shuttle fleet, with CRT-based displays that extended deep into the panel and weighed quite a bit.  During the glass panel upgrade, NASA considered how they wanted to update the control systems and then adopted a conservative strategy. 

      Here’s why: The code running the OV flight control system is not only complicated, it’s also very well tested.  Software Quality Assurance was performed to an almost unprecedented degree on these programs and the people who had written and tested them were largely retired or otherwise unavailable at that point.  To reduce risk while still gaining real advantages in equipment reliability without incurring prohibitive costs, they focused their efforts on emulating the old displays. 

      The glass panel units (which weighed much less, consumed less power, etc etc etc) accept the signals that the old monitors did and show them as they did, but they additionally can be switched back and forth like a flying KVM.  They actually added safety capability by making it so the various PFDs could be interchanged as needed at the click of a button. 

      End result: the operation costs of the displays was lower, the view was clearer, the reliability was higher, and the cost was a fraction of what it would have been to re-write the whole system from the ground up. 

      Just something I thought would be worth sharing, hope someone else finds this as interesting as I do.

      1. This is quite common in avionics. I know a guy who works in graphics for commercial aircraft, and he’s still getting requests to build stuff to standards that were obsolete 20 years ago. The company’s ticket to the big bucks is that it wrote an implementation of X Windows that’s FAA certified.

  4. I remember the Shuttle Sim I had om my old 486 DX33. Crashed that sucker a thousand times. Damn, but they hard to fly, thos suckers…

  5. I hope that they are saying they are “mothballing” them but will keep at least one ready to restore when they find out an alien fleet is on the way. Imagine how embarrassing it would be for us, we couldn’t even meet them in low earth orbit.

    “If you would like to meet on one of your space craft please let us know.

    “Um we used to have ’em but they are all in Museums not.”

    “I see, because you developed better space craft?”‘

    “Um no, we just  went back to our old 3 men in a box on top of a chemical cocktail of explosive force to get out of the gravity well.”

    “It seems odd that you would return to a more primitive method of space travel. ”

    “Yeah, but it’s okay because instead of spending money on exploring space we were able to channel it to killing other humans, so don’t try and mess with us. ”

    “So you have a planetary defense grid that can stop kinetic weapons from space ? ”

    “Oh yeah, we totally have that. We even made a video game about it. 

    1. Except that space capsules like the Apollo CSM are much more versatile than the shuttle. Apollo could have been flown to mars if we had a pressing need. The shuttle was always confined to low earth orbit. Apollo was a much more impressive system. What if the hypothetical aliens landed in tycho crater and waited politely for us to drop around for dinner?

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