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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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RE: I will truly miss the Shuttles
By MrBlastman on 7/8/2011 2:48:09 PM , Rating: 2
Space is not for pussies.

There, I said it. You're leaving Earth and going into a harsh, unforgiving environment. From the terrarium to a boiling pot of water, essentially (or a tank of liquid nitrogen depending on how you look at it), full of x-rays, gamma rays, particles, radiation and other extremely harmful forces--and no atmospheric pressure to keep your innards inside you should you depressurize.

Space is full of risks. Man was not built for Space, man was built for Earth. Earth just so happens to be a rock orbiting a class G2V (main sequence) star, while having an atmosphere and a magnetic field to help protect us. It is a wonder we even survive where we do, but, as we ride our chariot through our bend in the Galaxy, we all sit here ignorantly going about our days oblivious to the harsh realities of our Universe.

Safe? You think we're safe even here?

Our Universe is in a state of organized chaos, governed by twenty or so physical constants that, if a single one change, could dramatically alter our reality. So, when you think of that, strapping yourself onto the back of a rocket really isn't a big deal. Worst case typically would involve the whole crew being killed. Worst case if a physical constant were to change would be the entire population of our planet ceasing to exist.

So really, is going into space really subject to major safety risks? Perhaps localized but that is all.

The men and women who volunteer to be astronauts know this. They realize the burden they place on their shoulders and it isn't their own personal safety. The burden they carry is the fate of humanity. They do it to further mankind.

As such, they welcome the risks. 90% Reliable? That is an asonishingly high number when you consider everything that can go wrong in our universe.

Stop being such a wimp. Mentalities like your own are RUINING space exploration for everyone. Man has to take risks. Man has to make bets.

Man has to take a chance. Man... needs space.

By geddarkstorm on 7/8/2011 3:10:22 PM , Rating: 2
It's nice to see someone with guts, and a pragmatic head on his shoulders.

There is a reason astronauts have been regarded as national heroes. But I guess our populous has forgotten how to dream about anything other than how shiny the newest iPhone might be.

We will never advance without risks. Every business knows this, every explorer lives this. But some people are just too comfortable being lazy in their chairs and whining to accept this.

By Jeffk464 on 7/8/2011 6:48:00 PM , Rating: 2
Its not that gutsy to sit back on the sofa and watch people strap themselves into an explosive and blast off into Space. :)

Personally the engineers seem to think the design of the space shuttle is inherently more dangerous and think they can make a much safer system to get people into space. Whats the harm, the shuttle system was getting a little old anyways. The main problem has been the lack of leadership and vision, but mostly money from washington in coming up with a replacement, or goal for that matter.

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