Has it been three years already? The last mission of the space shuttle program launched on this day in 2011. We’ve included some of the most beautiful NASA images from the final flight of Atlantis.
But we’re also interested in publishing photos from Universe Today readers! If you attended STS-135 or any other launch of the space shuttle program, we’d like to hear from you. More details below the jump.
The mission’s major goal was to heft a multipurpose logistics module into space, as well as a bunch of spare parts that would be difficult to ship after the space shuttle retired. But it also served as a point of remembrance for the thousands of workers who constructed and maintained the shuttle, and the millions of people who watched its flights.
Where were you during that flight? What pictures did you take? Let us know in the comments and if you’d like to see your images published in a future Universe Today story, share your photos in our Flickr group. The photos must belong to you and be free to share. While this story focuses on STS-135, pictures from any shuttle launch or event are welcome. Let us know which one it was!
To kick off the memories, I’ll talk about where I was during the launch: I was on my way to a wedding in Toronto, Canada — five hours away from my hometown of Ottawa. I managed to pull into a parking lot just a few minutes before the launch sequence started.
I tried and tried to get a steady signal for video, but my phone was having none of it, so I instead “watched” the launch on Twitter. Luckily for me, friends were tweeting and sending text updates from watching television or in person, so I didn’t miss a thing. Then a couple of days later, my best friend and I both watched the NASA launch video together for the first time.
The flag of Atlantis flies from the Mobile Launcher Platform that brought Atlantis to the launch pad, May 31, 2011. Below the flag are crowds of people who attended the rollout. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Randy Meyers (left) and Mitchell Bromwell of United Space Alliance, the primary industry partner for space shuttle operations, show off an American flag to crowds of people gathered for the rollout of STS-135 Atlantis on May 31, 2011. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The STS-135 crew admires the shuttle Atlantis just prior to launching July 8, 2011. From left, Rex Walheim, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Chris Ferguson. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Atlantis lifts off on the last launch of the shuttle program, STS-135, on July 8, 2011. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Space shuttle Atlantis gets ready to dock with the International Space Station on July 10, 2011 during STS-135, the last mission of the space shuttle program. It is backdropped by the Bahamas. Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Ron Garan (who was on Expedition 28 while Atlantis was docked to the International Space Station for STS-135) adjusts his tethers early in a spacewalk July 12, 2011. Credit: NASA
The crew members of STS-135 and Expedition 28 share a meal and a selfie on July 14, 2011, marking one of the last times a shuttle crew and International Space Station crew ate together. Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who commanded STS-135, signs a decal for his mission (the last space shuttle mission) in the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. Next to it is the crew patch for Expedition 28. Credit: NASA
Space shuttle Atlantis flies home in this image captured from the International Space Station. Atlantis was completing STS-135, the last mission of the shuttle program. Credit:
Atlantis touches down in the last moments of STS-135 on July 21, 2011, marking the end of the shuttle program’s flights. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The view from under Atlantis, looking forward, after it landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida July 21, 2011, closing out the shuttle program with STS-135. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Atlantis is placed into its permanent home — an exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center — which opened in 2013. Credit: NASA
By Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.