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According to Wikipedia, Independence is a high-fidelity replica of the space shuttle. The timing of its construction would seem to be post-Challenger, but before Columbia and the subsequent winding down of the program. What motivated the construction of such a thing at that point in time? Was it built solely as a full-scale display model, or did it have utility in the shuttle program as a mock-up?

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It was built solely for display at KSC's visitor center, as described in the Wikipedia article you reference, and in this article about Orbiter mockups.

Explorer was built primarily for display and educational purposes--visitors could actually go inside the replica to tour the payload bay and crew cabin.

(Explorer was renamed Independence after its move to Houston. Other, sarcastic, names suggested by JSC employees such as Fauxlumbia/Ainterprise/Notlantis weren't accepted...)

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    $\begingroup$ Around here, I have seen it commonly referred to as the "Futtle" $\endgroup$ – Tristan Sep 20 '17 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ OK, that answers the question of its purpose, but wouldn't it have been more appropriate to do something like that earlier in the program? What would have motivated it being done then but not years before? $\endgroup$ – Anthony X Sep 23 '17 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ The KSC visitor complex is always looking to upgrade their attractions. They have also gone through several management contractor teams over the years. I looked for press releases and such to see if there were details about the timing, but I couldn't find any. I think the current operator (Delaware North) was not the operator then. My guess is they wanted to increase visitation and thought this would be a good attraction. The Visitor Complex relationship with KSC is...complex. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Sep 23 '17 at 14:53

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