Feeds

Atlantis blasts off on last shuttle mission

It's The Final Countdown, nah nah naah naaaaah....

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from Kennedy Space Center at 15:30 GMT today on its STS-135 mission to the International Space Station.

View from Atlantis onboard camera shortly after launch. pic: NASA TVOn board for the shuttle programme's swansong flight are commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. They'll deliver the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module packed with spares to the orbiting outpost, on what NASA's assistant administrator for space operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, described last week as an "incredibly important" mission.

The STS-135 mission summary (2-page PDF/609KB) says of the other STS-135 objectives: "The mission also will fly the Robotic Refueling Mission, an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel satellites in space, even satellites not designed to be serviced. The crew also will return an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station."

Once Atlantis returns to terra firma, the US will be reliant on Russian Soyuz vehicles to ferry its astronauts to and from the ISS – at least until private initiatives such as SpaceX's Dragon capsule once again give the country a manned spaceflight capability.

In the meantime, NASA insists it is still a space heavyweight which is eyeing distant horizons beyond Earth orbit.

The agency's administrator, Charles Bolden, declared last week: "Some say that our final shuttle mission will mark the end of America's 50 years of dominance in human spaceflight; as a former astronaut and the current NASA administrator, I'm here to tell you that American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half-century because we have laid the foundation for success – and failure is not an option.

"President Obama has given us a Mission with a capital 'M' – to focus again on the big picture of exploration and the crucial research and development that will be required for us to move beyond low Earth orbit. He's charged us with carrying out the inspiring missions only NASA can do that will take us farther than we've ever been." ®

Bootnote

To mark the final launch of Atlantis, the closeout crew took a moment after sealing the shuttle's hatch to send a few messages via NASA TV. No doubt it'll be tears and beers tonight down at Kennedy...

Closeout crew member before the Atlantis launch with sign reading God Bless America. Pic: NASA TV

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.