Shuttle replica is making its way to the Johnson Space Center

'Shuttlebration' Weekend comes to JSC

HOUSTON - The shuttle replica is on its final leg of the journey from Florida's Kennedy Space Station as it its way to the Johnson Space Center on Sunday. Road closures are expected to cause major traffic delays.

Unsuccessful in landing one of the retired space shuttles, Houston got the next best thing: a replica. The shuttle replica floated under the Kemah Bridge Friday.

The 122-foot-long replica, dubbed "Explorer," arrived in Clear Lake on Friday afternoon after an eight-day trip across the Gulf of Mexico aboard a barge from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Some residents lined up to catch a glimpse of the moving replica.

"To see a shuttle, even a representation of a shuttle is exciting, really something to remember," resident Mitchell Cirlot said.

The Seabrook-Kemah Bridge was closed for an hour for the move.

"To see that shape when it first came around the corner, it's like -- I wasn't sure of what to expect. That's the shuttle shape, not mistaking it. To see it towed in here, home, to Clear Lake -- a neat experience, a neat feeling. (To see it on the water), that's different. You never see that. We practiced that sometimes where we have to bail out over the water. I'm glad there's a boat underneath it," astronaut Rex Walheim said.

The shuttle will be docked next to the Nassau Bay Hilton hotel until Sunday.

Officials at JSC will build a temporary ramp from the barge to the dock so they can get to the shuttle. Cranes will lift the shuttle so a 144-wheel trailer can be positioned beneath it. The trailer will then take the Explorer a little more than a mile on NASA Parkway to it's final destination at Space Center Houston for visitors to see it.

Even though many were disappointed that Houston was not awarded one of the four retired shuttles, the full-sized model offers something that even the real thing won't -- the chance to go inside and see how the astronauts lived in a small space.

"We're going to consider this to be the real deal for us because it's going to be an educational piece from the small kid to the adults that doesn't understand what a shuttle is really like," said Bob Mitchell with Bay Area Houston.

Traffic Advisories

Motorists should be advised of traffic alerts because of the "shuttlebration."

On Saturday, NASA Parkway eastbound will be closed between Lakeside Drive and Space Center Boulevard.

On Sunday, NASA Parkway eastbound and westbound will be closed between El Camino Real and Space Center Boulevard from 5 a.m. until 9 a.m.

For a complete list of all the closures, visit

History of the replica

The 130,000-pound, full-scale model was built over the course of 13 months for $1.7 million. It was installed at the Kennedy Space Center in November 1993. The replica was towed by a 54-feet-wide, 180-feet-long barge.

The shuttle model is free-standing and displayed on its three landing gears. The interior of the model will be accessible to the public on two levels. Replicas of the flight deck and mid-deck will be visible from the public area inside of the payload bay.

The shuttle replica has landing gear tires from actual shuttle missions in space. The payload bay contains a model of a Hughes communications satellite perigee kick motor similar to the one carried on the STS-49 mission.

Houston officials were angered by NASA's decision last year to not award the city one of the agency's four retired shuttles and said it was politically motivated. Many Houstonians were offended by the decision as the city is home to Johnson Space Center and Mission Control. But NASA's watchdog group said the agency acted properly.

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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.