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Shuttle Atlantis Soars to Space One Last time: Photo Album

Atlantis launches one last time. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

Space Shuttle Atlantis soared to space for one last history-making time today July 8 at 11:29 a.m. despite a gloomy weather forecast, low lying clouds and a last moment countdown glitch that threatened to derail the launch in the closing seconds – but ultimately all coalesced and combined for an unpredictably tense drama that went down to the wire and put on a heart pounding and spectacular sky show.

About 750,000 spectators jammed the Florida space coast beaches, roadways and motels to witness a historic event that we will never see again.

NASA’s 135th and final shuttle mission takes flight on July 8 at 11:29 a.m. from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the high frontier and the International Space Station. Aboard Atlantis are 4 precious humans and some 9500 pounds of supplies. Credit: Ken Kremer
Send Ken your STS-135 launch photos to publish here

A hole in the sky miraculously appeared above the Kennedy Space Center and with just 58 seconds remaining in the launch window, NASA launch managers lit Atlantis engines and the shuttle stack thundered to life and vaulted off Launch Pad 39 A on 7 million pounds of thrust for NASA’s 135th and final shuttle mission.

“What a truly awesome day today,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier at the STS-135 post launch news conference for reporters. ” We got to witness something really, really special and something really amazing. I’m really talking about the teams and the people who supported the launch that just occurred. What you saw is the finest launch team and shuttle preparation teams in the world.”

“It truly was an awesome, spectacular launch,” added Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana.

Atlantis just leaving Earth. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

“We’re really looking forward to a great mission. This is a very critical mission for station resupply. We’re going to do our best to try and stretch out an extra day,” said Space Shuttle Program Launch Integration Manager and chairman of the pre-mission Mission Management Team Mike Moses. “I think the shuttle program is ending exactly as it should. We’ve built the International Space Station, we’re stocking it up for the future, and ready to hand it off, and we finish really, really strong.”

“On behalf of the launch team, and all the thousands of people here at KSC, we’re just very, very proud that we finished strong from the launch perspective,” added Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach.

“A lot of us walked around and shook everybody’s hand,” Leinbach told reporters at the packed press conference. “It seemed like we didn’t want to leave, it was like the end of a party and you just don’t want to go, you just want to hang around a little bit longer and relish our friends and what we accomplished. It was very special, lots of pats on the back today.”

Universe Today is covering the Grand Finale of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. This report and photo album will be updated later.

Send Ken your STS-135 launch photos to publish here.

This shot of Atlantis' launch was taken from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today

T + 14 seconds into the last flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 8.
Spectacular view from the Kennedy Space Center Press Site at the world famous countdown clock.
Credit: Ken Kremer kenkremer.com

Atlantis Final Blastoff on July 8 on the Grand Finale of the Shuttle Era. Stormy morning weather broke and Atlantis punched through a small hole in the sky which miraculously appeared at just the right moment. Credit: Ken Kremer


Atlantis clears the launch tower at KSC. Credit: Ken Kremer

Another view of Atlantis' final launch. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

Atlantis thunders to life at Launch Pad 39 A at KSC on July 8. Credit: Ken Kremer

The final Space Shuttle Crew for STS 135
The crew was welcomed to boisterous applause greeted and given a rousing sendoff of cheers by hundreds of journalists and NASA employees and managers. From left: Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus, Pilot Doug Hurley Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson. Credit: Ken Kremer

Photos from Mike Deep and David Gonzales for Universe Today


Atlantis' launch is seen from above through the window of a Shuttle Training Aircraft. CREDIT: NASA Kennedy Twitter

Another shot from the roof of the VAB. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

STS-135 Launch as seen from the NASA Causeway. Credit: Klaus Krueger

Read my features about the Final Shuttle mission, STS-135, here:
Atlantis Unveiled for Historic Final Flight amidst Stormy Weather
Counting down to the Last Shuttle; Stormy weather projected
Atlantis Crew Jets to Florida on Independence Day for Final Shuttle Blastoff
NASA Sets July 8 for Mandatory Space Shuttle Grand Finale
Final Shuttle Voyagers Conduct Countdown Practice at Florida Launch Pad
Final Payload for Final Shuttle Flight Delivered to the Launch Pad
Last Ever Shuttle Journeys out to the Launch Pad; Photo Gallery
Atlantis Goes Vertical for the Last Time
Atlantis Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building with Final Space Shuttle Crew for July 8 Blastoff

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michael Kremer July 9, 2011, 2:59 PM

    ken – wonderful article and fotos! i remember wathcing Columbia’s first flight with you. we waited and waited and waited … but up she finally went. well worth the wait. now here you were at the final program launch with Atlantis. 3yrs ago i remember seeing her climb through the skies snapping fotos from my commerical flight. the neat thing about that is that you were on the gorund snapping additional fotos. enjoy your visit.

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