7 Things You Didn’t Know About The Last Space Shuttle Mission
The 135th & final mission of the American Space Shuttle program.
NASA concluded the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
NASA ended the space shuttle era with the STS-135 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2011.
NASA’s Space Shuttle Program sent over 600 astronauts into low-Earth orbit over a 30-year-span. Averaging speeds of 17,500+ miles per hour (28,000 kilometers) space shuttle crews would see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes. Until NASA’s new Space Launch System is complete, or private companies such as SpaceX are able to launch astronauts to low Earth orbit, NASA must rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to get Americans into space.
The mileage of all orbiters combined during the Space Shuttle Program total over 513.7 million miles (826.7 million km) travelled, which is about 1.3 the distance between Earth and Jupiter.
The historic Atlantis orbiter is now on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Plan your visit today!
Enjoy these 7 Things You Didn’t Know About The Last Space Shuttle Mission!
#7 — Prior to launch the space shuttle weighted 4,521,143lbs (2,050,756 kg).
According to NASA — “Space shuttle Atlantis carried the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module to deliver supplies, logistics and spare parts to the International Space Station. The mission also flew a system to investigate the potential for robotically refueling existing spacecraft and returned a failed ammonia pump module to help NASA better understand the failure mechanism and improve pump designs for future systems.” — read more here.
#6 — STS-135 launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A in Florida at 11:29 a.m. (EDT) on July 8, 2011.
According to NASA — “It was a hot July day on Florida’s Space Coast as nearly a million spectators gathered along the beaches, rivers and causeways to watch history in the making. The weather forecast was a daunting 70 percent “no-go” to start the day, yet the countdown proceeded smoothly.” — read more here.
#5 — The last space shuttle crewmembers were Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.
According to NASA — “The crew got down to business after reaching orbit as they headed for a rendezvous and docking with the space station two days after launch. One of the main tasks before meeting up with the station was getting a close look at Atlantis’ heat shield to verify that it hadn’t sustained any damage during the climb to orbit. Mission Control in Houston gave them a “thumbs up” on the inspection results a few days later.” — read more here.
#4 — The four-person crew was the smallest space shuttle mission since STS-6 in April 1983.
According to NASA — “Once Atlantis caught up to the space station, Ferguson executed a backflip about 600 feet below to enable station crew members to photograph the shuttle’s heat shield.
The photos were evaluated by experts on the ground to look for any damage and none was found.” — read more here.
#3–It was the 33rd and final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
According to NASA — “One week into Atlantis’ mission, President Barack Obama radioed the combined shuttle and station crews to help mark the final shuttle flight. The President told them, “We’re all watching as the 10 of you work together as a team,” adding, “Your example means so much not just to your fellow Americans, but also your fellow citizens on Earth. The space program has always embodied our sense of adventure and explorations and courage.”
He also thanked those who have supported the Space Shuttle Program during the past 30 years of flight, and all the men and women of NASA who helped the country lead the space age.” — read more here.
#2 — The 37th Space Shuttle/International Space Station (ISS) assembly mission.
According to NASA — “Two days after Atlantis arrived at the station, the only spacewalk during the mission was performed not by shuttle astronauts, but by two station residents who three years earlier had collaborated on three spacewalks when they were STS-124 shuttle crewmates.
Now as Expedition 28 flight engineers, Fossum and Garan were paired again as they spent six hours and 31 minutes working outside the station. Choreographed from inside Atlantis by Walheim, Hurley and Magnus operated the station’s 58-foot-long robotic arm to maneuver the spacewalkers around the exterior of the joined spacecraft.” — read more here.
#2 — The space shuttle landed on 21 July 2011, following a one-day mission extension.
According to NASA — “In preparation for landing, the astronauts used the 50-foot-long Orbiter Boom Sensor System to conduct a high-fidelity, three-dimensional scan of Atlantis’ wing leading edges and nose cap and received the “all clear” from mission managers. The crew also checked out the shuttle’s flight control surfaces, hot fired its reaction control system jets and rehearsed landing on a laptop computer.” — read more here.
#1 — The mission officially lasted 12 days, 18 hours, 27 minutes & 52 seconds.
According to NASA — “NASA’s shuttle fleet — Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour — flew a total of 135 missions.
Each one began at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39.
Of those missions, 78 ended with a Kennedy landing; 54 concluded with a touchdown on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base in California; and one landed at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.” — read more here.
*Bonus* — Final launch footage:
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“I think both the space shuttle program and the International Space Station program have not really lived up to their expectations.” — Buzz Aldrin