Thursday 7 Jul, 2011

The Final Countdown – Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch

The final countdown has begun for Atlantis’ ultimate mission. Atlantis is scheduled to blast off tomorrow, Friday, July 8, at 11:26 EST, in the last flight of the entire NASA Space Shuttle program.

Atlantis’ flight will be the 135th mission for the fleet of five space shuttles. Discovery and Endeavour made their final flights earlier this year. Columbia and Challenger were also part of the space shuttle program.

Matt Stroshane / Getty Images

Atlantis, sitting on top of the crawler transporter, moves to launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral in October 2009.

See Atlantis over the years.

For this final mission, Atlantis will be taking supplies to the International Space Station, enough to keep the station going for a year. Also aboard are germs for scientific research. Scientists are hoping to better understand why bacteria thrive in space. To assist crew members track their scientific data, the shuttle will carry an iPhone with apps specifically created for this mission.

The final space shuttle crewmembers are Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.

Though this final mission was authorized by Congress nearly one year ago, the shuttle didn’t make it to the launch pad until a few days ago. Four days, 15 cameras and 120,000 images create this video that captures the preparations to launch Atlantis for the last time:

from msnbc

This final Atlantis mission also marks the last time you’ll be able to view skyward and spot a shuttle. National Geographic provides tips to see the shuttle as it makes its flight.

One million spectators will be present to view this event live. Tickets for the closest viewing spots at the Kennedy Center Visitors Complex and along the NASA Causeway were distributed through a lottery system for $20 to $65 each — but demand has been so high that ticket packages have sold for up to $5,000 on websites such as eBay, reported Florida Today.

After retirement, Atlantis will be prepared for permanent display at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.