Shuttle Atlantis begins journey to permanent home

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Shuttle Atlantis begins journey to permanent home

In less than an hour, the space shuttle Atlantis will finally be parked at its new home -- the visitor complex at Kennedy Space Center.

It took all day Friday for the shuttle to complete the 10-mile trek that began at dawn. It left the secured area of the space center and made a stop at Exploration Park.

Thousands of people got their first look, drawn by the ingenuity of the world's first reusable spacecraft.

Security kept people 25 feet back, but it was still the closest that the general public has ever been able to get to Atlantis.

Most people were surprised when they saw how beat up, burned and scarred the orbiter is.

Thousands pulled out their cameras to make sure they had a keepsake of Atlantis as it paused under the bright Florida sun for the last time.

Seventh -graders Riley Mulois and Barbara Soucie skipped school to see Atlantis as it stopped in Exploration Park.

They said "amazing" is the only word to describe it.

Atlantis moved at just 2 mph.

Atlantis' first commander was among the dignitaries there for the shuttle's official hand-over.

"For me Atlantis represents that reflects the maturity, the reliability, and the capability of the space program," said Cmr. Karol Bobko.

More than 120 light poles, 23 traffic lights and 56 traffic signs were removed for the 56-foot high shuttle's move.

Crews in cherry pickers got the shuttle's 56-foot-tall tail through high voltage power lines.

It is being led to its new home by 30 shuttle astronauts. Some of the first to fly Atlantis are in attendance as well.

Once it arrives, Atlantis will be moved into its new home and workers will finish construction around the shuttle so the museum structure will be built around it.

At the end of Friday's move, NASA will have a fireworks display.

When Atlantis arrives, it will hang from the ceiling, upside down at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with its bay door open for all to see.

Atlantis is the last shuttle to be put on display. Discovery left for the Smithsonian in Virginia in April. Endeavour headed to California in September.

The operator of Kennedy's visitor complex, Delaware North, is footing the bill for the $100 million Atlantis exhibit.