The space shuttle Atlantis has been encased in a protective plastic, a wrap that will keep the spacecraft dust-free while construction crews finish building the exhibit hall to showcase her to the public.

See our photo gallery.

Closing out the space shuttle era at the Kennedy Space Center forever Friday, Atlantis was hauled outside the confines of America's human launch site and driven to the neighboring Visitor Complex for permanent display, marking the first time since 1979 that the Florida spaceport no longer possesses an orbiter for the facilities at Complex 39.

See our photo gallery of the move.

With a colorful fireworks display welcoming space shuttle Atlantis to her new home, the retired spaceship has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex where she will remain forever.

"We think visitors to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be awed and inspired by how they will see and experience Atlantis," said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

In the coming weeks, the orbiter will be removed from the 76-wheel transporter, wrapped in a protective covering and then hoisted 36 feet off the ground and tilted to her display position of 43.21 degrees so that the support pedestals can be erected beneath the spaceplane.

Construction of the hall, which began in January, will be finished for a grand opening next July. Atlantis will have the payload bay doors open and simulating the shuttle flying in orbit, having just departed from the International Space Station.

"Complementing Atlantis will be more than 60 interactive, immersive exhibits about the entire shuttle program – including its key role with the International Space Station and the Hubble Telescope, and how it paved the way for today's new space programs," Moore said.

"Along with our authentic 363-foot-long Apollo/Saturn 5 rocket, countless other unique space artifacts, the Shuttle Launch Experience and everything to see at a working space port, Atlantis makes the visitor complex the best place to experience, learn about and be inspired by mankind's greatest adventure," he said in a press release.

2203 GMT (6:03 p.m. EDT)
Wheel stop and transporter engine off. Atlantis has arrived just outside her $100 million exhibit hall, ready to slide in later tonight. But first a fireworks show to welcome the national treasure to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex!
2150 GMT (5:50 p.m. EDT)
Considered one of the trickest turns of today's trip is underway at Atlantis pivots off 405 and into the Visitor Center. The museum has built a one-time-use asphalt strip that leads from the road to the exhibit hall for the space shuttle.
2125 GMT (5:25 p.m. EDT)
Nearly three dozen astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle eras are leading the way as Atlantis marches down the NASA Causeway en route to her new home.
2053 GMT (4:53 p.m. EDT)
Rounding the corner from Space Commerce Way onto 405, the NASA Causeway, Atlantis is in the homestretch of her voyage into retirement today.
1903 GMT (3:03 p.m. EDT)
Concluding the viewing hours at Exploration Park, Atlantis is once again rolling toward her ultimate destination this evening -- the Visitor Complex. After exiting out of this industrial park, the space shuttle will be taking the winding Space Commerce Way west and north to intercept 405.
1600 GMT (12:00 p.m. EDT)
Rolling into Exploration Park, a 65-acre industrial complex outside the gates of KSC, the space shuttle Atlantis has arrived for today's three-hour public viewing opportunity.

"The final trip of Atlantis will be the very last time anyone is going to see a space shuttle in motion or out in the open, making it a truly unique and momentous viewing opportunity," said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which operates the visitor complex for NASA.

"Atlantis is a spacecraft that has flown 33 missions into space, logging more than 125 million miles, and it was the last orbiter in space and the last to touch down at Kennedy Space Center. Seeing the orbiter up close will be an emotional experience."

It is a festival atmosphere here, with booths from various aerospace firms and spacecraft displays of the Lockheed Martin-made Orion deep space capsule, the SpaceX Dragon craft and Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spaceplane.

1545 GMT (11:45 a.m. EDT)
The final space shuttle has exited the gates of Kennedy Space Center, marking the first time since 1979 that the spaceport has possessed no orbiter vehicles. Passing that threshold is the definitive moment in saying farewell to the shuttle program.
1445 GMT (10:45 a.m. EDT)
The trip is underway again, with Atlantis turning right to go south on Avenue C. She will turn westward on 5th Street and head for Exploration Park where the three-hour public event is expected to start around 12 noon.
1411 GMT (10:11 a.m. EDT)
The Titusville High School marching band, space center workers and a collection of current and former astronauts have paraded with shuttle Atlantis into position near the KSC Headquarters building for a NASA event with Administrator Charlie Bolden. There will be a ceremonial signing of a retirement document on Atlantis and transfer to the Visitor Complex. Unlike the other shuttles that changed ownership from NASA to the respective display sites, the space agency will retain the title to Atlantis.
1340 GMT (9:40 a.m. EDT)
Climbing up the incline and going the wrong direction on an exit ramp, Atlantis has turned off SR 3 to head eastward on 405. The ship will be stopping shortly near the KSC Headquarters for a NASA ceremony with Administrator Charlie Bolden and the crew from the final space shuttle mission.

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1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT)
The space shuttle, riding on the orbiter transporter, just passed through the Schwartz Road intersection on State Road 3. The weather is crystal clear for the spacecraft's procession to the Visitor Complex.

"The final trip of Atlantis will be the very last time anyone is going to see a space shuttle in motion or out in the open, making it a truly unique and momentous viewing opportunity," said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which operates the visitor complex for NASA.

1140 GMT (7:40 a.m. EDT)
Atlantis has made the emotional handover to the museum team and departed the Vehicle Assembly Building, passing by the orbiter hangars and turned south on State Road 3 to leave the Florida spaceport.

Atlantis emerging from the northwest corner of the 52-story building for today's 11-hour, 9.8-mile trip down the road and outside the gates to the Visitor Complex for permanent display.

Watch this page for live streaming video of Atlantis' move and periodic updates throughout the day.

1031 GMT (6:31 a.m. EDT)
MOVE BEGINS. A moment that has been looming since retirement of the space shuttle program was directed by President George W. Bush on Jan. 14, 2004, the final orbiter is shipping out of Kennedy Space Center's operational facilities en route to the spaceport's privately-run museum for public display as a relic of a bygone area.

The 76-wheel, diesel Orbiter Transport System hauling Atlantis has begun to exit the Vehicle Assembly Building's storage bay that has housed the shuttle for the past weeks. This starts today's 9.8-mile journey to KSC Visitor Complex that has a $100 million building under construction to show off the spacecraft.

Space shuttle Atlantis is awaiting crews to fire up the Orbiter Transport System early Friday for the one-way ticket ride to her final resting place.

See our photo gallery from Thursday showing Atlantis parked in storage at the Vehicle Assembly Building and shots from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex facility under construction to house the orbiter.

The 9.8-mile trek from the VAB to the hall starts a little before 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) and should take about 11 hours. We will have live streaming video and updates on the move right here on this page.

"There will be people over there about 4:30 in the morning, all excited and ready to go. We'll crank it up about 6:30 and I would say first movement between 6:30 and 7," said Tim Macy, director of project development and construction for Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which operates the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

A small crew was finishing up final preparations at the museum site Thursday evening to receive the orbiter.

"The only rush was we wanted to make sure anything overtop where the orbiter will be (is done)," Macy said, ensuring technicians won't have to complete any significant work above the shuttle after it's inside the building.

Friday's trip will include a stop near the KSC Headquarters building for a NASA ceremony and then another large-scale event at Exploration Park geared for the public.

"We've done so much to make that a fun exciting day. You'll be able to bring out family members, I expect a lot of media and community around," said Stephanie Stilson, NASA's director of the shuttle retirement activities. "We will celebrate Atlantis on that day, but also it will be difficult knowing it will be the last day in the LC 39 facilities. At least we are going to be keeping her close by and be active in the work they are going to be doing at the Visitor Complex getting ready for display. That allows us to hang onto her a little longer."

Looking to leave before sunup Friday, Atlantis will be hauled away from Kennedy Space Center's Complex 39 and leave the hub of space shuttle operations barren for the first time since 1979.

Atlantis is headed to the nearby Visitor Complex, the privately-run tourist attraction outside the gates of KSC for public display in a $100 million exhibit that opens next July.

"It's only a priceless artifact driving 9.8 miles and weighing about 154,000 pounds. Other than that, no pressure at all. Only the eyes of the country, world and everybody at NASA is watching us but we don't feel any pressure. Of course we feel pressure," quipped Tim Macy, director of project development and construction for Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which operates the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

"We've been planning for this a long, long time. We've got the smartest people who work on this orbiter. It's not like it's Tim and his buddies pulling this off, we're using the expertise of NASA and USA. They've worked on the orbiter for 35 years."

Trip gets underway around 6:30 a.m. EDT as space shuttle technicians pull Atlantis out of storage in the Vehicle Assembly Building's high bay 4. The museum team then takes over responsibility to drive the 76-wheel Orbiter Transporter on the 9.8-mile trek to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Arrival is expected around 6 p.m. EDT as the sun sets on the final space shuttle delivery to its final resting place.

Read our full story.

Read our earlier Endeavour ferryflight coverage.

Read our earlier Discovery/Enterprise ferryflight coverage.