Full-scale Space Shuttle cabin opens in Prague’s Planetarium in Stromovka

Check out the inside of the cabin, which is equipped with copies of the control panels, and snap a photo in a spacesuit.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 23.07.2021 13:15:00 (updated on 07.12.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

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While few people can foot the $250,000 price for a ticket to space on the new Virgin Galactic rocket plane, there is now a significantly cheaper alternative at Planetarium Praha in Prague’s Stromovka park. A full-scale model of the cabin of Space Shuttle Atlantis has opened in the lobby, set up to look like the nosecone has crashed through the wall.

The display coincides with the 10th anniversary of the last shuttle flight. For the price of CZK 240 ticket (for people 15 and over), people can get a 15 minute tour of the cabin and a photograph is a spacesuit, under hygienic conditions. One child under 15 is included in the ticket price, but without a space suit. Due to the authenticity of the shuttle mock-up, it is not accessible to people with limited mobility. More details are here.

In the future, the Planetarium plans to allow people to virtually pilot the shuttle, though that option is not yet available.

The “Space Shuttle Era” lasted from April 12, 1981, with the first flight of Columbia, to July 21, 2011, with the last flight of Atlantis. The shuttle was America’s the first reusable spacecraft, as the previous space capsules such as the ones for the Gemini and Apollo programs were retired after a single use.

Space Shuttle Atlantis model. (Photo; Planetarium Praha)
Space Shuttle Atlantis model. (Photo; Planetarium Praha)

From the end of the shuttle program until Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket and Crew Dragon capsule took astronauts to the ISS in November 2020, the U.S. had to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to take people into space.

The shuttle had many notable accomplishments, including delivering most of the parts of the International Space Station (ISS). Shuttles also carried the Hubble Space Telescope and many other satellites and space observatories to their orbits. There were also two catastrophes in the program, the explosions of Space Shuttle Challenger shortly after launch in 1986 and Space Shuttle Columbia on re-entry in 2003.

On a Facebook video about the new display and the Space Shuttle program, German astronaut Hans Schlegel discusses in English the program and his own experience as a fight specialist in 1993 on Columbia to bring a German-sponsored component to the ISS and on Atlantis in 2008 to deliver a European lab.

His comments start at 29:20.

“What is the most important thing is it has windows. It has windows to look outside; to see where we are; to take in the new perspective of our earth. … It’s looking down at earth, and earth gets a new meaning. It’s a little marble,” he said.

“We fly around it in two and half hours so it is pretty small, at least in regards to our speed. We look down there and we don’t see borderlines of countries – we see oceans, we see deserts, we see mountains, we see hurricanes, clouds, thunderstorms, we see day and night,” he said.

While he wished the model could have included the cargo bay, overall he was impressed with it.

“It looks wonderful; your model of Atlantis looks wonderful,” he said.

He also reflected on his life-long love of space and science, and how he got to be on the shuttle crew.

The actual Space Shuttle Atlantis is displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Its cargo bay doors are open, and it is i front of a projection of the earth so it appears to be in orbit.

The Soviet Union made almost identical looking shuttle called Buran, but it made only one unmanned flight in 1988. It was destroyed when its hangar collapsed in 2002.

Planetarium Praha is open daily in July and August from 10:30 am to 9 pm, but will be closed July 30. There are also two observatories in Prague where, weather permitting, people can see the night sky through telescopes – Štefánik Observatory and Ďáblice Observatory. All three facilities are managed under the same umbrella group called Planetum. More info can be found on the Planetum website.

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