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Space shuttle Atlantis blasted off at 11:29 a.m.

Space shuttle Atlantis launched today, marking the final mission and complete retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet.

Atlantis is the last of three remaining operational orbiters in NASA's Space Shuttle fleet. In February 2011, Space Shuttle Discovery was the first of the three to launch on its final mission after nearly 30 years of space travel. Then, in April 2011, Space Shuttle Endeavour was set to launch, but was delayed due to a broken set of heaters. It took off on its final mission in mid May instead.

Now, NASA's Space Shuttle fleet will be three-for-three as Atlantis blasts into orbit for its last mission as well.

Space Shuttle Atlantis first flew into space on mission STS-51-J in October 1985. It has completed 32 missions, spent 293 days in space, carried 191 crews and has traveled 120,650,907 miles. Atlantis is the only orbiter that cannot draw power from the International Space Station while docked there. Instead, it must provide its own power for fuel cells.

Today marks Atlantis' 33rd and final mission, STS-135. It will be a 12-day mission to the International Space Station with the purpose of delivering supplies and spare parts, which will be contained in the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module.

Atlantis mission STS-135 carries a crew of four, including Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.

"That is the most beautiful vehicle we've had to fly in space, ever, and it's going to be a long time until you see a vehicle roll out to the pad that looks as beautiful as that," said Walheim. "How can you beat that? An airplane on the side of a rocket. It's absolutely stunning."

Space shuttle Atlantis took off at 11:29 a.m. ET from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. While some reports noted that weather could be obstacle possibly causing a delay, the astronauts started boarding Atlantis around 8:00 a.m. and the hatch was closed around 9:21 a.m. for flight.

Reports have estimated that the crowd gathered in the area to see the launch ranged from 500,000 to 1 million people.

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Historic Day
By cjohnson2136 on 7/8/2011 11:32:17 AM , Rating: 2
It's sad to think that these shuttles have done so many missions and they are not retired. At least 7/8 is easy to remember :)

RE: Historic Day
By dpratte on 7/8/2011 12:01:11 PM , Rating: 4
I find it funny that these shuttles do just fine with hardware straight from the 1980s and do their job of going to and back from space while back on Earth the common Joe *needs* (according to the vendor, of course) a dual/quad-processor to run Microsoft Office/iWork :)

Efficiency does not seem to increase with the years, it seems.

RE: Historic Day
By geddarkstorm on 7/8/2011 12:56:33 PM , Rating: 2
It's because we no longer value efficiency like we once did. Make hardware better, give more space for developers to use, and they will. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and too much efficiency can be damaging too, by reducing flexibility and expandability.

Still, I agree, the pendulum has definitely swung way too far to the "wasteful" side of things. And the fact we can't even make a new orbiter cost effectively to replace the shuttle, with all our more advanced modern tech and processes, shows that.

RE: Historic Day
By Flunk on 7/8/2011 1:08:14 PM , Rating: 2
Guiding rocket engines isn't exactly processor intensive. Playing a flash movie is much more difficult. If you don't want fancy graphics and sound and video you could easily get by with a 486 or three just like the shuttle.

RE: Historic Day
By Jeffk464 on 7/8/2011 7:14:58 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, give me zacate at the very least.

RE: Historic Day
By icanhascpu on 7/8/2011 3:27:05 PM , Rating: 1
I understand your point, but I think you made it wrong. We do need hardcore hardware to run simple apps now because of software bloat and lazy as fuck managers that force their programmers to cut huge corners to make asinine deadlines.

Think if web designers thought the same way. Why compress in PNG for 2 seconds what you can have in BMP for free?

RE: Historic Day
By KentState on 7/8/2011 2:09:18 PM , Rating: 2
Was happy that I got to see it launch in person today. Have not experienced anything like this before and this was just perfect. Actually choked up a little when it disappeared into the clouds.

RE: Historic Day
By themelon on 7/8/2011 2:32:17 PM , Rating: 2
I made the trip out there for STS-134. Once in a lifetime trip to watch it go up from the Causeway viewing area.

RE: Historic Day
By Jeffk464 on 7/8/2011 7:17:28 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yeah, I saw Columbia land on its first flight.

RE: Historic Day
By FITCamaro on 7/11/2011 8:45:58 AM , Rating: 2
Saw several launches as a kid with special access passes.

Also saw STS 114 go up from outside the VAB.

Awesome view. Wish I could've gone down there for the final launch. But I'd just made a trip to Orlando the previous weekend and was busy with work.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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