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Space Shuttle Atlantis – The End of an Era

When Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Centre on May 26, 2010, it marked the end of 25 years of service for the space vehicle, traveling more than 120 million miles in it’s lifetime.




When Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Centre on May 26, 2010, it marked the end of 25 years of service for the space vehicle.

Space shuttle Atlantis and the STS-132 crew blasted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on May 14 on a 12-day, 4.8-million-mile mission to the International Space Station. STS-132 was the 32nd and final scheduled flight for Atlantis, which has traveled more than 120 million miles.

Atlantis was the fourth Shuttle to go into orbit, its career beginning on 3 October 1985 when it blasted off from Kennedy on STS-51-J, a secret five-day mission carrying a military payload for the US Department of Defense. Atlantis served as the on-orbit launch site for many noteworthy spacecraft, including planetary probes Magellan and Galileo, as well as the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

Atlantis became the first Shuttle to dock with Russia’s Mir space station on STS-71 in June 1995. A large array of onboard science experiments also took place during most missions to further enhance space research in low Earth orbit.

Construction of the orbiter Atlantis began on March 3, 1980, taking about half the time in man-hours spent on Columbia, and weighing 3.5 tons less. Atlantis rolled out at 151,315 pounds from the assembly plant in Palmdale, California.

Atlantis Construction Milestones (OV-104)

  • Jan. 29, 1979 Contract Award
  • March 30, 1980 Start structural assembly of crew module
  • Nov. 23, 1981 Start structural assembly of aft-fuselage
  • June 13, 1983 Wings arrive at Palmdale from Grumman
  • Dec. 2, 1983 Start of Final Assembly
  • April 10, 1984 Completed final assembly
  • March 6, 1985 Rollout from Palmdale
  • April 3, 1985 Overland transport from Palmdale to Edwards
  • April 13, 1985 Delivery to Kennedy Space Center
  • Sept. 12, 1985 Flight Readiness Firing
  • Oct. 3, 1985 First Flight (STS 51-J)

Atlantis’s final touchdown on Kennedy’s Runway 33 was the third to last mission. The only two remaining missions are planned with Discovery later this summer, and the final flight will be operated by Endeavour at the end of 2010 or early 2011.

A space shuttle flight returning to earth is essentially an exact science since the flight is not powered and must slow down and glide it’s way back. The approach speed is over 300 miles per hour, thus requiring a longer runway than commercial jets and a parachute to slow it down upon landing.




2 Responses

05.30.10

Great and useful information…really enjoyed and updated my Knowledge bank. Wayne thanks for sharing!!!!!

05.30.10

This information is great for those who have an intrest in the sky, the stars and moon. What is all about the beauty we each see here on EARTH, AS WE LOOK UPWARD.!

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About Wayne Farley

Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, an aviation safety evangelist who once made my living working in the control tower. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from the aviation world. After writing "13 Characteristics of an air traffic controller" in 2010, it went viral and established me as an unofficial ambassador for ATC.

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