Friday, July 8, 2011

Atlantis Blasts Off on Final Flight for Space Shuttle Program for-space-shuttle-program


Space shuttle Atlantis displayed its power and majesty one final time, rocketing into space from Kennedy Space Center at 11:26 a.m. ET Friday morning despite threatening weather -- marking the final launch after 30 years for NASA's storied fleet of shuttles.

Seven million pounds of thrust from the shuttle's rocket booster carried the vehicle into orbit one last time, at speeds of up to 19,000 miles per hour, for an expected meeting with the International Space Station on Sunday.

It was a bittersweet moment for everyone involved.

"The sense of history, the legacy of what has happened here over three decades, is palpable," a Mission Control spokesman said before the launch, noting that "30 years and three months ago, it was Columbia on the launch pad awaiting lift off."

"America will continue the dream," the launch director said as Atlantis lifted-off on its 33rd and last flight.

The crew -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus and Mission Specialist Rex Walheim -- had arrived at the launch pad's White Room at 8:06 a.m. ET for the boarding process, undeterred by reports that there was only a 30 percent chance of favorable weather for blast off.

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