Weather permitting, NASA is sending the final space shuttle crew into space today when Atlantis STS-135 marks the beginning of the end of an era.

Leading up to the launch, NASA was afraid the weather might prevent the shuttle from launching. While it is still a distinct possibility, the agency is going ahead with the launch as scheduled.The NASA weather team still has the launch at 30 percent go.

We do have a shot at this today, said Launch Director Mike Leinbach.

Currently, the astronauts have boarded Atlantis and have prepared themselves for launch. The Close Out Crew is preparing to close the hatch for flight and verify the integrity of the hatch seal before breaking down the White Room and departing the launch pad.

STS-135 will be a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. Atlantis will carry a crew of four and the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing supplies and spare parts for the space station. The STS-135 astronauts are: Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. The astronauts have acknowledged how special it is to be on the final space shuttle mission.

The Space Shuttle Program has been amazing, what it's done, all the great accomplishments, and you just don't want to let that momentum down, and so there is a lot of pressure to do your job right and to, and like I say, to finish strong, said Walheim.

Following Atlantis'12-days in space, the ship will land back in NASA's Kennedy Space Center and retire into a museum along with three other shuttles. If there are no delays then that will be the day the space shuttle program dies.

NASA, however, is adamant that the space agency and its space exploration goals will not cease at the end of the space shuttle program. The company has laid out several plans for the future of space exploration under its direction.

As a former astronaut and the current NASA Administrator, I'm here to tell you that American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half-century because we have laid the foundation for success and failure is not an option, Charles Bodden, NASA's Administrator, said in a recent speech.

 

We at IBTimes will have all of your space shuttle coverage. Please check back at 11:00 am as we'll begin the live portion of this coverage.