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Space shuttle Atlantis has launched for the final time, for the last mission of the space shuttle program. The crew of four is heading to the International Space Station. Launch occurred at 10:29 EDT (15:29 UTC), and despite an unfavorable weather forecast, Atlantis and her crew beat the 30% odds that was predicted for the probability of launch. There was a slight delay and a hold in the countdown (about 2 minutes) when a problem with the vent arm retraction on the launchpad (the “beanie cap” over the external tank) was detected. The launch control team was able to look at the issue, and determined it was safe to proceed with launch.
Our team of writers and photographers will provide more details and images, soon, (we’ve heard the communications at KSC are completely bogged down).
As for the future, NASA’s Chief Technologist Bobby Braun may have said it best via Twitter: “This is not the end of human spaceflight. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
And the STS-135 mission is just beginning as well. We’ll provide full coverage of the final space shuttle mission for the next two weeks.