NASA has rolled over space shuttle Atlantis to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for mating the shuttle with its external tank and solid rocket boosters ahead of her July mission to the International Space Station.
The space shuttle will carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module to deliver supplies, logistics and spare parts to the International Space Station during the STS-135 mission, which is the last planned space shuttle mission since STS-1.
The mission will also fly a system to investigate the potential for robotically refueling existing spacecraft and return a failed ammonia pump module to help NASA better understand the failure mechanism and improve pump designs for future systems.
Atlantis is to fly the 12-day mission with four crew members: Commander Christopher Ferguson, Pilot Douglas Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim. The last shuttle mission to fly with just four crew members occurred before 28 years, for STS-6 on April 4, 1983 aboard Space Shuttle Challenger.
The reduced size of four crew size allows the mission to maximize the amount of payload carried to the International Space Station and also allows for a rescue by a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to be performed if necessary.
After the space shuttle Atlantis return from space, technicians and engineers will spend a few months prepping the vehicle for public display -- paving the way for a grand opening as early as the summer of 2013.
This is the home of human spaceflight, it's the home of the space shuttle, Kennedy's Center Director Bob Cabana said. To be able to share that excitement, that story with all our visitors to inspire the next generation of explorers ... it's huge in being able to tell the story of human spaceflight and of NASA. I think it's outstanding that Atlantis gets to stay here with us and not leave after her last flight.
On Tuesday early morning, the space shuttle departed Orbiter Processing Facility-1 and headed to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Atlantis remained on the Orbiter Transport System overnight, as opposed to heading over to High Bay 1 on the same day.
Take a glimpse of the space shuttle Atlantis hoisted to the high bay for mating to the external tank and solid rocket boosters in Cape Canaveral: