NASA space shuttle Atlantis blasted off on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, despite a stormy weather with a 70 percent chance of thunderstorm and rain that threatened to delay the launch.
Despite the gamble, NASA fueled up the shuttle and the four astronauts prepared for the lift-off, which marks the final flight of the 30-year shuttle program after shuttle Columbia gone to the International Space Station during STS-1.
The four STS-135 crew members include Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.
The launch on July 8 was viewed by around 1 million spectators, almost close to the number that watched the launch of the Apollo 11 lunar-landing mission in 1969.
After the launch, the astronauts have begun orbit operations in earnest, preparing to dock to the station at 11:06 am Sunday morning. The crew members activated and checked out the shuttle robotic arm Friday evening in preparation for a standard survey of Atlantis’ Orbital Maneuvering System pods. Flight Day 2 begins with crew wake up at 3:59 am EDT Saturday.
Today’s launch may mark the final flight of the Space Shuttle, but it propels us into the next era of our never-ending adventure to push the very frontiers of exploration and discovery in space. We’ll drive new advances in science and technology. We’ll enhance knowledge, education, innovation, and economic growth, US President Barack Obama said in a statement.
And I have tasked the men and women of NASA with an ambitious new mission: to break new boundaries in space exploration, ultimately sending Americans to Mars. I know they are up to the challenge – and I plan to be around to see it, Obama added.
Congratulations to Atlantis, her astronauts, and the people of America's space program on a picture-perfect launch, and good luck on the rest of your mission to the International Space Station, and for a safe return home. I know the American people share my pride at what we have accomplished as a nation, and my excitement about the next chapter of our preeminence in space, the President concluded.
During the STS-135 mission, the shuttle will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with supplies and spare parts to sustain the station's operations once the shuttles are retired.
The mission will also fly the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) to the station. The RRM is an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel satellites in space, even satellites not designed to be serviced.
While coming back from the station, the crew will carry back the recently failed ammonia pump module for NASA to better understand the failure mechanism and improve pump designs for future systems.
The video of the mission recap of flight day 1 is below:
Also, take a look below at the live stream of the space shuttle Atlantis: