Final Launch Almost Scrubbed By Sensor Glitch
With solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank jettisoned,
space shuttle Atlantis is now in orbit.
Atlantis and its four astronauts have left Earth for the final
space shuttle mission, which will cap off an amazing 30-year
program of exploration, which launched great observatories, built
an International Space Station, and taught us more about how humans
can live and work in space.
With the International Space Station flying 220 miles high and
east of Christchurch, New Zealand, Atlantis left Launch Pad 39A at
NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1129 EDT. There was a
slight delay at T-31 seconds while retraction of the Gaseous Oxygen
Vent Arm, or "Beanie Cap," was verified.
"What a truly awesome day today," said NASA Associate
Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier at the STS-135
postlaunch news conference. "I'm really talking about the teams and
the people who supported the launch that just occurred. What you
saw is the finest launch team and shuttle preparation teams in the
"It truly was an awesome, spectacular launch," added Kennedy
Space Center Director Bob Cabana, who looked ahead to plans for
future development beyond the shuttle program as space station
"We're really looking forward to a great mission. This is a very
critical mission for station resupply. We're going to do our best
to try and stretch out an extra day," said Space Shuttle Program
Launch Integration Manager and chairman of the pre-mission Mission
Management Team Mike Moses. "I think the shuttle program is ending
exactly as it should. We've built the International Space Station,
we're stocking it up for the future, and ready to hand it off, and
we finish really, really strong."
"On behalf of the launch team, and all the thousands of people
here at KSC, we're just very, very proud that we finished strong
from the launch perspective," added Shuttle Launch Director Mike
Atlantis will dock with the space station on Sunday.