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Atlantis Lifts Off Today

This image of space shuttle Atlantis was taken shortly after the rotating service structure was rolled back at Launch Pad 39A, Thursday, July 7, 2011.
Image courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Space shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) is scheduled to launch today at 11:26 a.m. EDT from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Space shuttle Atlantis' 12-day mission to the International Space Station will deliver a multi-purpose logistics module filled with supplies and spare parts to sustain station operations once the shuttles are retired. The mission also will fly the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), 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. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.

This is the final flight for shuttle Atlantis and the Space Shuttle Program. NASA's workhorses for the past 30 years have completed their mission to build and supply the orbiting outpost, and the agency is now looking to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

STS-135 is the 135th and final shuttle mission and the 33rd flight of Atlantis. It is scheduled to land at 7:06 a.m. on July 20 at Kennedy.

Atlantis, the fourth orbiter built, flew its maiden voyage on Oct. 3, 1985.

atlantis astronauts
Pictured are NASA astronauts Chris Ferguson (center right), commander; Doug Hurley (center left), pilot; Rex Walheim and Sandra Magnus, both mission specialists. Image courtesy of NASA.

Veteran astronaut and retired captain in the U.S. Navy, Chris Ferguson will be making his third trip into space as commander on STS-135. In his role as commander, he has overall responsibility for the safety and execution of the mission, orbiter systems operations and flight operations, including landing. In addition, he will fly Atlantis through its rendezvous and docking to the International Space Station.

Doug Hurley, a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, will be making his second trip into space as pilot on STS-135. In July 2009, he completed his first spaceflight as pilot on STS-127. He has logged more than 376 hours in space.

Sandra Magnus will be making her third trip into space as a mission specialist on STS-135. Dr. Magnus first worked in the Astronaut Office Payloads/Habitability Branch. Next, she was assigned as a "Russian Crusader," which involved traveling to Russia in support of hardware testing and operational products development. Dr. Magnus served as a CAPCOM for the International Space Station.

Rex Walheim, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force, will be making his third trip to space as a mission specialist on STS-135. A veteran of two spaceflights, he has logged more than 565 hours in space, including more than 36 hours in five spacewalks. Walheim previously served on the crews of STS-110 and STS-122.

Published July 8, 2011

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