July 8, 2011 Space shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson and his three crewmates are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 11:29 a.m. EDT Friday. STS-135 is the final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program.
"With today's final launch of the space shuttle we turn the page on a remarkable period in America's history in space, while beginning the next chapter in our nation's extraordinary story of exploration," Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Tomorrow's destinations will inspire new generations of explorers, and the shuttle pioneers have made the next chapter of human spaceflight possible."
The STS-135 crew consists of Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. They will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 8,000 pounds of supplies and spare parts to sustain space station operations after the shuttles are retired.
"The shuttle's always going to be a reflection to what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through," Ferguson said shortly before liftoff. "We're not ending the journey today…we're completing a chapter of a journey that will never end."
The mission includes flying the Robotic Refueling Mission, an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed for robotic refueling of satellites in space, even satellites not designed for servicing. The crew also will return with an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.
Atlantis is on a 12-day mission and scheduled to dock to the station at 11:06 a.m. on Sunday.
STS-135 is the 135th shuttle flight, the 33rd flight for Atlantis and the 37th shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.
Mission coverage, including the latest NASA Television schedule, is available on the main space shuttle website at: http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle
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