With only three Space Shuttle Missions left, it’s time to start counting the lasts, and today was the last time the the Shuttle Atlantis would have journey from the Earth into orbit:
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The space shuttle Atlantis, carrying a crew of six, a Russian docking module and critical spare parts, vaulted into orbit Friday on a 12-day space station assembly mission, the orbiter’s 32nd and final planned flight after a quarter century of service.
With NASA bracing for the looming retirement of the shuttle fleet after a final three missions, Atlantis roared to life and rocketed away from its seaside pad at 2:20 p.m. Eastern time. The eight-and-a-half-minute ascent appeared normal as the spacecraft climbed through a partly cloudy sky, putting on a familiar, soon-to-be-missed show for area residents and tourists who turned out in droves to catch a glimpse of Atlantis’s final launching.
A camera mounted on the shuttle’s external tank provided dramatic views of the climb to space with no obvious signs of foam insulation or other debris that might have caused any damage.
Strapped in on Atlantis’s flight deck were Capt. Kenneth T. Ham of the Navy, the commander; Cmdr. Dominic A. Antonelli, also of the Navy, the pilot; the flight engineer, Michael T. Good, a retired Air Force colonel; and Garrett E. Reisman, veteran of a three-month stay aboard the space station in 2008.
Seated on the shuttle’s lower deck were Capt. Stephen G. Bowen of the Navy, a former submariner, and Piers J. Sellers, a British-born astronaut who arranged to carry a piece of bark from Isaac Newton’s apple tree into the weightlessness of space. All six astronauts are shuttle veterans.
Not much to say, except, here’s the video: