NASA's final space shuttle mission begins with Atlantis' launch
The mission will deliver supplies and space parts to sustain International Space Station operations after the shuttle’s are retired.
July 8, 2011
Space shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson and his three crewmates are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 11:29 a.m. EDT Friday. STS-135 is the final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program.
Space shuttle Atlantis lifts off the launch pad for the final space shuttle mission. NASA TV
"With today's final launch of the space shuttle, we turn the page on a remarkable period in America's history in space, while beginning the next chapter in our nation's extraordinary story of exploration," Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Tomorrow's destinations will inspire new generations of explorers, and the shuttle pioneers have made the next chapter of human spaceflight possible."
The STS-135 crew consists of Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. They will deliver the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module filled with more than 8,000 pounds of supplies and spare parts to sustain space station operations after the shuttles are retired.
"The shuttle's always going to be a reflection to what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through," Ferguson said shortly before liftoff. "We're not ending the journey today, we're completing a chapter of a journey that will never end."
The mission includes flying the Robotic Refueling Mission, an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies, and techniques needed for robotic refueling of satellites in space, even satellites not designed for servicing. The crew also will return with an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.
Atlantis is on a 12-day mission and scheduled to dock to the station
at 11:06 a.m. on Sunday, July 10.
STS-135 is the 135th shuttle flight, the 33rd flight for Atlantis, and the 37th shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.