Friday, July 08, 2011

Atlantis launches on final mission.

Thirty years and 135 missions after its debut, NASA launched a space shuttle for the final time on Friday as Atlantis streaked into orbit from Kennedy Space Center.

The mission was the 33rd for Atlantis which first flew on Oct. 3, 1985 on a Department of Defense flight.

The 11:29 a.m. liftoff thrilled a crowd estimated at nearly one million people who packed viewing sites along the Space Coast for one last look at a spaceship that captured the imagination and attention of fans around the world.

But because of the vast expense necessary to maintain and fly the shuttle fleet it was decided the craft had outlived its usefulness and it was brought to an end in a decision that will be debated in space circles for decades to come.

One of the points of contention is the shuttle should have been flown until a successor was in place to both guarantee the nation's leadership position in space and human access to space not to mention thousands of jobs that were lost at KSC.

With the International Space Station having years remaining in its lifetime, U.S. astronauts will reach the outpost on Russian Soyuz rockets at least through 2016.

Atlantis and its crew of four veteran astronauts is scheduled to dock with the station about 11 a.m. on Sunday to carry out its re-supply mission. Undocking is scheduled for about 2 a.m. on July 18 and landing for July 20 at KSC where the shuttle program will officially end with the call of wheel stop.
Atlantis is destined for its new home in a $20 million building at the KSC Visitor Complex.

-Mark DeCotis

1 comment:

Pirate77 said...

This entry was clearly written in advance of the launch as Atlantis did not lift off on-time, but just over 2 minutes late while ground controllers verified that the "beanie cap" had retracted to an acceptable position. I'm going to miss these shuttles :-(