Twenty-five years after its doors first opened to the public, the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame is closing in preparation for its re-launch as part of a new interactive attraction late next year.
The institution, which since Oct. 29, 1990 has honored the nation's space explorers with the world's largest display of astronaut personal memorabilia, will close to the public on Nov. 2, officials announced on Wednesday (Oct. 21).
Located in Titusville, Florida, just south of the launch pads where its honorees departed for space, the Astronaut Hall of Fame is set to move up the road to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which has managed the hall as an off-site facility since 2002. [Giant Leaps: Top Milestones of Human Spaceflight]
"Bringing the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and its educational programs to the visitor complex will allow a larger audience to explore the amazing achievements of the astronaut heroes," said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of the complex.
The visitor complex is integrating the Hall of Fame into its newest attraction, which will celebrate the early astronauts and their missions by immersing guests in their history.
"Heroes and Legends, featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame" will bring to life the stories of America's pioneering astronauts by inviting guests to experience their missions through high-tech displays and special effects — including simulated holograms.
"[The visitor complex's] mission... is to inspire minds of all ages through memorable space experiences," said Protze. "The new Heroes and Legends, featuring the Hall of Fame, will immerse our guests in some of the most inspirational and remarkable space experiences in the world."
The highlight of Heroes and Legends is promoted to be a 3D omnidirectional theater, designed to make guests feel as though they're floating in space. In the theater, images will envelop visitors as Hall of Fame astronauts, including Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Jim Lovell and Neil Armstrong, invite them to join in their historic space journeys.
The Astronaut Hall of Fame will serve as the culminating area of the attraction, allowing guests to interact virtually with the almost 100 inductees (to date). Some but not all of the previous museum's astronaut artifacts will be exhibited as part of Heroes and Legends, officials said.
Heroes and Legends will be located just inside the visitor complex's main entrance gates and adjacent to its Rocket Garden, making it the first building guests encounter. The new attraction replaces Early Space Exploration, a gallery devoted to the Mercury, Gemini and first Apollo missions, which closed to the public on Sept. 28.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex broke ground on Heroes and Legends in May and is scheduled to open the new attraction in late 2016.
The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame was first proposed in the 1980s by the six surviving Mercury astronauts as a place where space travelers could be remembered. Since 1990 when it opened, the Hall of Fame has enshrined 91 men and women who, as NASA astronauts, orbited the Earth at least once. The 2015 class, which included four veterans of the space shuttle program, were honored in May.
See artist concepts of Heroes and Legends, featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, at collectSPACE.