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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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By maven81 on 7/8/2011 4:02:57 PM , Rating: 2
"And imagine: if we had been focusing on that type of technology, we might have had the resources to immediately send remote-controlled robots into the failed reactors in Japan this year"

I'm pretty sure they did in fact send robots, though not right away. Robots are not immune to radiation either you know, they can just be built to stand a much higher dose. But the issue here is latency. On earth you have say a few hundred milliseconds. Send that robot to Mars and you'll be waiting up to 20 minutes to receive an image from that robot and it will be another 20 minutes before it gets your command on what to do. Hence it takes those robots a week to do what a human explorer could have done in a few hours.

There's been an interesting suggestion about a sort of two birds with one stone approach to fix this though... Send the robot to Mars, but have the humans stay in orbit controlling it. No latency for the operators, and no landing means the mission is a lot cheaper and a lot easier to pull off.

By xyzCoder on 7/10/2011 4:15:36 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously, you lame-o's are just going to keep trying to push these valid points under the rug?

I think I have more 'replies' available to me than you have 'downrates', so keep it up - just another example of how 'free speech' works in America.

I don't mind being downrated, but at least give me some argument for it. the previous attempt at arguing against my points obviously failed, and yet Maven81 is at 2 and I'm at -1...

Have you really no shame at all? Are you scientists or just insecure individuals living in denial? You don't like the question I raise, so you try to hide it from people. LAME.

Our American 'science' is far more Gestapo and pork-spending than it is truth.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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