Space shuttle on verge of final landing

Jul 21, 2011 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
Space shuttle on verge of final landing (AP)
This image provided by NASA shows the space shuttle Atlantis photographed from the International Space Station as the orbiting complex and the shuttle performed final separation of a space shuttle in the early hours of Tuesday July 19, 2011. The Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module, which transported tons of supplies to the complex, can be seen in the cargo bay. It is filled with different materials from the station for return to Earth. (AP Photo/NASA)

(AP) -- Perfect weather awaited space shuttle Atlantis on Thursday for the very last landing of the 30-year program.

Atlantis' four astronauts shut the payload bay doors in the wee hours of the morning. That set them on a course toward an on-time touchdown at 5:56 a.m., just before dawn.

Commander Christopher Ferguson told Mission Control that this really was it.

NASA is ending its with Atlantis' successful space station resupply mission. It is the 135th flight in shuttle history. This grand finale comes 50 years to the day that Gus Grissom became the second American in space, aboard Liberty Bell 7.

A record crowd of 2,000 was expected at NASA's landing strip to welcome Atlantis home.

It was to be a true homecoming for Atlantis, which first soared in 1985. The next-to-youngest in NASA's fleet will remain at as a museum display.

Atlantis - the last of NASA's three surviving shuttles to retire - performed admirably during the 13-day flight.

It dropped off a full year's worth of food and other supplies at the , just in case upcoming deliveries get delayed.

The space station's international partners - Russia, Europe and Japan - will continue to carry up cargo loads. And Russia will keep launching American astronauts to the orbiting lab until private industry is ready to fly people up in three to five years.

Several private companies are vying for the cargo runs and astronaut ferry flights. The front-runner hopes to make its first shipment of supplies by the end of this year.

A U.S. flag that flew on the first in 1981 and returned to orbit aboard Atlantis, is now at the station. The first company to get astronauts there will claim the flag as a prize.

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

More information: NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Shuttle 'Go' for Dec. 6 Launch

Dec 04, 2007

Space shuttle Atlantis is set to begin its launch countdown for the STS-122 mission with a flurry of activities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Atlantis is scheduled to launch at 4:31 p.m. EST on ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

20 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

Dec 19, 2014

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.