NASA’s Space Shuttle Program Ends: Atlantis Launch On Friday

The last of the space shuttle mission flights will take place in two days when space shuttle Atlantis roars off into space for a twelve day sojourn with the International Space Station. It will carry a crew of four members.

The last of the Mohicans

After the recent flight of the Endeavour – its last in which it delivered the multi-billion dollar antimatter detector to the International Space Station, NASA wants to wrap up its space shuttle program with this last flight of Atlantis. STS-135, its mission name, is expected to complete a twelve day mission during which it will deliver spare parts and essential supplies on board the ISS. The launch is scheduled on 8th July, 2011, for 11:26AM EST (or 1526 GMT) off Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Atlantis at Pad 39A. Photo Courtesy: NASA

The space shuttle program, sanctioned by President Nixon, is four decades old, originating in 1969, right after America set foot on the Moon. This was the post-Apollo follow-up and a brilliant foray into space.


As for viewing the launch, NASA expects people numbering more than 75,000 to turn up. The best view will be from the NASA causeway or the Kennedy Space Center’s Visitors’ Center. NASA sells tickets to these spots, but they have been sold out for weeks. If you can shell out $1000 or even $1500 you might be lucky enough to buy a ticket to the Causeway on eBay.


The good news is that the launch will be visible from anywhere nearby provided that your view is not obstructed. Any nearby spot on the Florida space coast will do just fine and it comes for free. Titusville, a mere 12 miles from Kennedy Space Center (KSC), is billed as the premiere spot. It lies just across the Indian River from KSC. Next in line, almost as good, is the port town of Canaveral. The pad is clearly visible from both places.
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For other enthusiasts, who will not be able to make it, NASA TV will offer HD coverage of the entire event just like it did for Endeavour.

NASA is crossing its fingers for this launch, hoping to avoid any sort of embarrassing scrubbing or postponement like the one in Endeavour’s case.

Here’s wishing NASA for a final glorious push. Watch this space for more…

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.