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Dismantling the Space Shuttle Program

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NASA's Space Shuttle program continues to wind down, with only two more launches planned -- the final one taking place in June (if funded). NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently announced four facilities where shuttle orbiters will be displayed permanently in New York, California, Florida, and Washington, D.C. At Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Launch Pad 39B, originally designed for the Apollo program and later customized to support the Space Shuttle, is currently being taken apart in preparation for future missions with new, post-shuttle launch systems. Space Shuttle Discovery -- which landed for the final time last month after having flown 39 missions, traveling 148,221,675 miles -- now sits inside Orbiter Processing Facility-2, as it's inspected, disassembled, and prepared for its new life as a public exhibit. Collected here are some images of the 29-year old program's last days. [27 photos]

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Space shuttle Discovery's forward reaction control system (FRCS), which helped steer the shuttle in orbit, sits atop a transporter in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Next, the FRCS will be shipped to a maintenance facility at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, where additional inspections will be performed and its components made safe to go on public display. The transition and retirement processing is expected to help rocket designers build next-generation spacecraft and prepare the shuttle for display. Photo taken on March 3, 2011. (NASA/Jim Grossmann)
Space shuttle Discovery's forward reaction control system (FRCS), which helped steer the shuttle in orbit, sits atop a transporter in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Next, the FRCS will be shipped to a maintenance facility at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, where additional inspections will be performed and its components made safe to go on public display. The transition and retirement processing is expected to help rocket designers build next-generation spacecraft and prepare the shuttle for display. Photo taken on March 3, 2011. (NASA/Jim Grossmann)
In this Wednesday March 9, 2011 photo released by NASA, space shuttle Discovery lands at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., completing its 39th and final flight. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls) #
Red spray paint marks the spot where the nose landing gear of space shuttle Discovery stopped after it landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Wednesday, March 9, 2011. A marker will be placed in the runway to mark the final spot where Discovery ended its career as the world's most flown spaceship. (AP Photo/Stan Honda, Pool) #
The left spent booster from space shuttle Discovery's final launch is seen floating on the water's surface while pumps aboard the Freedom Star, one of NASA's solid rocket booster retrieval ships, push debris and water out of the booster, replacing it with air to facilitate floating for its return to Port Canaveral in Florida. After the spent boosters are processed, they will be transported to Utah, where they will be refurbished and stored for later use, if needed. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky) #
Photographers gather near near the towway to capture space shuttle Discovery as it is towed from the Shuttle Landing Facility to Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Discovery touched down on Runway 15 at 11:57 a.m., bringing an end to its 39th and final spaceflight mission, STS-133. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
Space shuttle Discovery's tail fin clears the hangar door of Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Inside the processing facility, Discovery will be prepared for future public display. Photo taken on March 9, 2011. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
Thousands of NASA Kennedy Space Center employees stand side-by-side to form a full-scale outline of a space shuttle orbiter outside the Vehicle Assembly Building on March 18, 2011. The unique photo opportunity was designed to honor the Space Shuttle Program's 30-year legacy and the people who contribute to safely processing, launching and landing the vehicle. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
At NASA's Kennedy Space Center, media learn about the transformation of Launch Pad 39B from Jose Perez-Morales, NASA's Launch Pad 39B senior manager. Starting in 2009, the structure at the pad was no longer needed for NASA's Space Shuttle Program, so it is being restructured for future use. The new lightning protection system, which was in place for the October 2009 launch of Ares I-X, will remain. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #
A large crane dismantles a level of the fixed service structure (FSS) on Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The structure was designed to support the unique needs of the Space Shuttle Program. The new design will feature a "clean pad" for rockets to come with their own launcher, making it more versatile for a number of vehicles. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
A crane dismantles another section of the fixed service structure on Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Work to remove the rotating service structure (RSS) also continues at the pad. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rotating service structure on Launch Pad 39B is seen being dismantled on October 18, 2010. (NASA/Frankie Martin) #
Rubble begins to build as the rotating service structure on Launch Pad 39B is dismantled at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on October 22, 2010. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #
A tunnel beneath Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida runs from the blast-resistant "rubber room" to the pad perimeter. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
A tunnel beneath Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida leads to the blast-resistant "rubber room." The room is a steel dome floating on rubber isolators and was used as an escape route during the Apollo Program in case of an emergency. It has since been abandoned by astronauts, but throughout the years nature found its way inside, including raccoons, snakes, birds and even a bobcat and opossum. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
A steel door, similar to a bank vault door, leads to the blast-resistant "rubber room" beneath Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
Empty fire blanket holders, surrounded by a circle of chairs at the center of the abandoned blast-resistant "rubber room" beneath Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
A spent shuttle solid rocket booster is moved into Hangar AF at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, where it will be cleaned. After these spent boosters are processed, they will be transported to Utah, where they will be refurbished and stored for possible future use. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #
Shuttle Atlantis' three main engines take center stage to the banners commemorating the orbiters that served the Space Shuttle Program. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
Crews in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida remove space shuttle Discovery's right-hand inner heat shield from engine No. 1. The removal is part of Discovery's transition and retirement processing. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
Crew members in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 begin to remove space shuttle Discovery's forward reaction control system (FRCS), which helped steer the shuttle in orbit. The FRCS used hypergolic fuel and oxidizer, which were purged from Discovery after its final spaceflight. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #
Technicians complete the removal of main engine No. 3 from space shuttle Discovery using a specially designed engine installer on a Hyster forklift. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #
Crews remove space shuttle Discovery's forward reaction control system, preparing it to be be shipped to a maintenance facility at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, where additional inspections will be performed and its components made safe to go on public display. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #
In Orbiter Processing Facility-2 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center crew members remove space shuttle Discovery's right-hand inner heat shield from engine No. 1. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #
Space shuttle Discovery's forward reaction control system, is hoisted away from Discovery before additional inspections will be performed and its components made safe to go on public display. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #
A crew member in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 removes space shuttle Discovery's right-hand inner heat shield from engine No. 1, part of Discovery's transition and retirement processing. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #
Space shuttle Discovery's forward reaction control system is settled onto a transporter at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on March 22, 2011. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #
Main engine No. 1, which was removed from space shuttle Discovery, is transported from Orbiter Processing Facility-2 to the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The removal was part of Discovery's transition and retirement processing. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #

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