The move began at about 6:30 a.m. EDT Friday as the shuttle was backed out of the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building for its journey to a mammoth exhibit hall at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the space agency reported.
Only three walls of the hall have been built so Atlantis, with a 78-foot-wide wingspan and a tail that reaches more than five stories, can be rolled into the structure/ Workers will quickly erect the fourth wall to enclose it.
Shuttle-era astronauts and members of the workforce who spent 30 years in the shuttle program came out to witness the move.
Atlantis is the third and final shuttle of NASA's former operational fleet to be moved into a museum. Discovery, the oldest active shuttle at its time of retirement, has been on display in the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington, since April, while Endeavour recently arrived at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
"They are being given honorable retirements," Roger Launius, curator at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and NASA's former chief historian, said. "This is a permanent accomplishment of the American people and it's important that we understand this chapter of not just space history, but American history."