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Space Shuttle a Go-Go–NASA’s Atlantis Successfully Lifts Off [Video]

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER—Atlantis lifted off Friday at 11:29 A.M. Eastern time after a last-moment hold at 31 seconds on its 33rd and final mission—both for it and NASA’s 30-year-old manned space shuttle program, putting on hiatus the era of human access to low Earth orbit on board U.S. spacecraft. The launch and orbital insertion were flawless.

This flight, tagged STS 135, the 135th of the program, carries a crew of four shuttle veterans, Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, along with mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus.

During Atlantis‘s 12-day mission the crew will deliver the Italian Space Agency’s reusable Raffaello Multipurpose Logistics Module loaded with around 3,500 kilograms of science experiments, supplies, logistics and spare parts to the International Space Station. It will also carry an experimental package to determine if existing satellites can be refueled robotically is feasible. The crew will also return with a failed ammonia pump module after it is retrieved from the station during a spacewalk by Expedition 28 astronauts Mike Fossum and Ron Garan. NASA Engineers plan to analyze its failure to improve future designs. Another important job: bring back 2,350 kilograms of space station trash, broken equipment and dirty laundry in Raffaello.

Image of launch: NASA

Below is a live stream from NASA, with replays of the launch.

 

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  1. 1. nfiertel 4:58 pm 07/8/2011

    so..The US has decided to cede its leadership in physics and cosmology to anyone with the farsightedness to take up the mantle. First there was the stupid cancellation of the collider in Texas with the result that the best minds left the continent for Geneva and now the threatened James Webb Telescope and totally moronic know nothing budgetary cuts as an excuse for this when just closing one useless European or Asian base would pay for this project and then some along with the entire NASA budget and maybe stem cell research for the next ten years is NEVER considered. The US will take a back seat to China and the EU and history will say that this decade is when the US ceased to be significant in the world of knowledge and became a backwater from what could have been. The waste on military expenditures is mindboggling and the spending by NASA on stupidities such as the Constellation program AND the Shuttle did not help. The Webb Telescope in the single most important space related research any country has ever involved itself with and other nations who have contributed to this effort are not going to be trusting the US to keep its word if they cannot even do this. The US Congress has within its august body, embeciles, know nothings and anti science zealots who see the Webb as undermining their simplistic views of the Universe and of science itself. The result will be a fleeing of brilliant minds to other nations and an accelerating decline in science within this continent.

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  2. 2. Paluhdin 2:33 pm 07/9/2011

    My compliments to your comment. It is so well written and with just the right emotional flare. I don’t understand how anyone can support the degradation of our space programs. Something is lacking in our country and the mere fact that we find something as important as this to forfeit is a sure sign that common sense and foresight is a part of it.

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  3. 3. jswilkins 1:02 am 07/15/2011

    From the PoV of outside America, it has been plain that your forward-thinking dissipated sometime around the Reagan-Gingrich era, and that your scientific and intellectual core community has been fighting a series of increasingly less successful rear guard actions ever since. Your anti-climate science, anti-vaccination, anti-environmental, anti-evolution lobby groups and their corporate backers are just the latest in a sequence of know-nothingness that goes back to the nineteenth century, only now it runs the show. I am very sorry to see this, but I expect that China, India, Russia and other nations will take up the slack. I only wish I spoke their languages as I do yours…

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