[/caption]KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – The last shuttle that will ever blast to space has journeyed from the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building out to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida in anticipation of liftoff on July 8 at 11:38 a.m.
It was a proud and bittersweet moment for all the shuttle team members from top to bottom as Space Shuttle Atlantis was rolling out overnight to Launch Pad 39 A, at the same time that Space Shuttle Endeavour was plunging into Earth’s atmosphere for the scorching reentry and landing back at the shuttle landing strip at KSC.
Thousands of NASA and contractor employees and their families had been given special passes to witness the dramatic nighttime sojourn of Atlantis in a morale booster event as she emerged from inside the VAB on her way to the pad for what will be the grand finale of the 30 year long Space Shuttle Program.I was privileged to watch and photograph Atlantis final journey from inside the VAB and the roof of the Launch Control Center (LCC). The LCC is the brain which commands and controls every aspect of Shuttle Launch operations.
The 12 day STS-135 mission will deliver the Raffaello logistic module to the International Space Station (ISS) which is loaded with critical spare parts, crew supplies and science gear that will be transferred to the massive orbiting outpost. Raffaello is a multipurpose logistics module built in Italy.
The STS-135 mission is a bonus for the shuttle program and was only officially added to the manifest in January 2011 as NASA sought funding from the Obama Administration and the US Congress.
The all veteran four person crew is led by Shuttle Commander Christopher Ferguson. He is joined by Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.
Photos from Alan Walters for Universe Today: awaltersphoto.com
Photos from Mike Deep for Universe Today
Read my prior features about the Final Shuttle mission, STS-135, here:
Atlantis Goes Vertical for the Last Time
Atlantis Rolls to Vehicle Assembly Building with Final Space Shuttle Crew for July 8 Blastoff
Read my features about the final mission of Endeavour, STS 134, starting here
Era of Space Shuttle Endeavour Ends with June 1 landing at the Kennedy Space Center
Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science 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, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight – www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter