On July 8th, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis took off on its last mission, STS-135. NASA prepared extensively for the final 13-day flight that will close out the Space Shuttle Program. Atlantis was moved to its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 31, and lifted off on July 8 at 11:29 A.M. EDT (1529 GMT). The shuttle rolled out to the launch pad just hours before its sister ship, Space Shuttle Endeavour, landed early morning on June 1, wrapping up STS-134, its own final mission: a 16-day delivery flight to the International Space Station. The four-person astronaut crew has worked extremely hard to prepare for Atlantis’, and the Space Shuttle Program’s, last mission.
Many of you may be wondering what will happen to all the space shuttles after this last launch. Well, the space shuttles are getting ready for their second lives as museum pieces. The shuttles themselves will go through a lengthy clean-up process before they’re ready for their public debuts. When a shuttle lands, it’s covered in hazards: liquid hydrogen and oxygen for fuel, ammonia for coolant, and live pyrotechnics for blowing out emergency escape windows. “We have to remove those chemical hazards so that when it’s in a museum, the public can walk up to it without risk of things outgassing or dripping,” said NASA flow director Stephanie Stilson, who oversaw all the post-flight checkups and pre-flight preparations for Discovery’s last 11 trips to space and is now getting the remaining space shuttles ready for retirement. Because of these space shuttles, we have been able to make many advances in science and technology.
Once the space shuttles are prepared and deemed safe for public viewing, we can view these magnificent space vehicles at museums around the country. Space Shuttle Discovery will be located at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just outside Washington, D.C. Space Shuttle Endeavour will be located at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Space Shuttle Atlantis will be located at the Kennedy Space Center just outside Orlando, Florida.
Watch the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, which took place on July 8, 2011.