back to article Atlantis blasts off on last shuttle mission

Space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from Kennedy Space Center at 15:30 GMT today on its STS-135 mission to the International Space Station. View from Atlantis onboard camera shortly after launch. pic: NASA TV On board for the shuttle programme's swansong flight are commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, and mission …


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  1. Dave Bell

    End of an Era

    I suppose manned spaceflight from KSC isn't a guaranteed future.

    1. Poor Coco

      Nothing is guaranteed...

      ...but there is little reason to view this as the closing of Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX’s pad is there, and when the Falcon 9 Heavy flies that will be a show and a half.

  2. VeganVegan

    End of a magnificent era

    A technological marvel, and a money pit.

    Let's hope the next system will be substantially cheaper, so that we can go farther.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      The next system is cheaper...

      and it is called Soyuz.

      I see it as taking a small step back... in order to make a giant leap forward...

      1. Mike Flugennock

        ...and it is called Soyuz

        ...or something like it. Perhaps if we weren't pissing away a shit-ton(ne) of cash on half a dozen wars, and on bailing out Obama's buddies on Wall Street and in the banking "industry", we'd have the cash to fully fund the Constellation program.

        Soyuz may not be as "sexy" as the Shuttle, but they've been flying it for nearly half a century, and made steady, deliberate, incremental improvements -- I like to call it the "VW Beetle Of Space" -- to the point where it's become a solid, dependable workhorse of a crew-transport vehicle (and cargo transport, in the Progress configuration).

        What really kills me is that if we'd followed the same path with Apollo, we'd be set now. Apollo, when we last left it, was at a point where it could transport crew and cargo, if you were to replace the LM with, say a "mission module" (a la Soyuz) or a hab module for long-duration flights, or a cargo module.

        I'm no expert, but I'd bet that if we'd continued incrementally improving and upgrading Apollo, we'd have our own Soyuz equivalent today, and there'd be none of this handwringing and desperate, thumb-sucking positive spin over the end of a thirty-year program which was predicted -- in the early '70s -- to become a flying white elephant.

        So, my feelings are mixed, right now; it was gorgeous, graceful, sexy, majestic -- and, yeah, a huge-assed money pit.

        I can only hope that NASA (Orion), SpaceX (Dragon) and Boeing (CST100) get on the goddamn' stick with their crew/cargo-transfer craft.

        A cold one, for thirty years' service by all the hard-working guys and gals at Houston and KSC.

  3. Number6

    Positive Spin

    The KSC people at the visitor centre had a very upbeat attitude to it last week. Low Earth Orbit is now routine and can be left to the commercial people, NASA is going to concentrate on harder stuff.

    Assuming someone gives them the money, of course.

  4. Adam Foxton

    Watched the launch on NasaTV

    Wish I could have been there in person. Godspeed, Atlantis!

  5. Ryan 7

    No mention of

    the super-dramatic "HOLD THE COUNTDOWN!" at T-31s?

  6. vincent himpe


    todays average cell phone has a thousand times the computing power of the first machines used to design and run the shuttle.... and what do we do with it ? play angry birds or tweet about how the cat farted ...

    it's 2011. we should have had interstellar travel by now. Or at least teleporters, or tricorders ..

    1. Mike Flugennock

      re: amazing

      vincent himpe sez on 07.08.11 @17:11gmt:

      "it's 2011. we should have had interstellar travel by now. Or at least teleporters, or tricorders .."

      Whoa, steady there, fella. Let's get realistic. My hope by now was that we'd have a base on the Moon, and be preparing to launch a Mars expedition. As it is, as of about 11:30am EDT, we don't even have a zero-g pot to piss in.

    2. Andus McCoatover


      Angry Birds V.2

  7. Brian Miller

    End of yet another space era

    We had some fun with Apollo, we had some fun with Skylab, and now it's over with the Space Shuttle. Failure may not be an option, but apathy sure as hell is.

  8. Andus McCoatover

    God speed.

    Dunno why, but since I saw - live on TV - Challenger destroyed in a cloud of smoke in '86, I've always been anxious on each mission for these folks' safe return. I'm not even a Yank.

    Yeah, I saw Columbia on TV, too. By coincidence, I happened to be in Texas at the time.

    Come back safely, folks...Park the bloody thing in the museum where it belongs on your return.

    1. K. Adams

      Likewise sentiments...

      I feel about the same as you do.

      The Shuttle was a technological marvel for its time, and can do things that no other spacecraft can do,... But it's hugely expensive to operate and maintain, has proven to be rather finicky, and turned out in some ways to be a lot more fragile than anticipated.

      Even so, I'll be sad to see it go...

      I still believe that the world needs a reusable space--plane like vehicle for ferrying cargo and people to and from LEO; the idea of throwing away a perfectly good booster stack -- engines and all -- every time you want to climb up the [gravity] well seems to be a wasteful way of doing things.

      Elon Musk's Falcon 9 booster (launch) stage is intended (eventually) to be recoverable and re-usable:

      -- Wikipedia: Falcon 9 (Section: Reusability)

      -- -- -- --

      ... and if SpaceX can deliver on the necessary engineering, then they'll have a Good Thing going, at least as far as wasted material is concerned.

      However, I am not sure that recovering and re-using a liquid-fueled stage is practical, given the amount of refurbishment and testing required to ensure galvanic corrosion and salt-water contamination didn't compromise the components after splashdown...

      (Grabbing my jacket; gotta take a walk around the Vehicle Assembly Building before they shut out the lights...)

  9. Mr Young

    It got them into orbit ok again then?

    I do seem to like this fiery device)

  10. hamacy

    all well and good for what it was

    fare thee well expensive firework, now let's concentrate on a proper (wo)manned space programme

  11. BatCat

    The rest of the world has moved on quite a bit...

    I watched the first shuttle launch at school, gathered round a big CRT TV that probably weighed ~70kg - watched the last one on a screen in the palm of my hand...

  12. Magnus Ramage
    Thumb Down

    Earworm alert!

    Curse you, El Reg. I will now have That Song in my head all evening. Time for an early bed, I think!

  13. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Paypal sucks

    But at least Elon Musk is doing something worthy with the money. Here's to good luck for SpaceX, and hoping they put the US back in space in a more rational matter.

    That said, I will sorely miss the Shuttle. It had a lot of very unique capabilities that won't easily be replaced. And I will be absolutely shocked if MPCV ever becomes something more than a paper airplane.

  14. Andus McCoatover

    "the US will be reliant on Russian Soyuz vehicles"

    Didn't "Top Gear" launch a Reliant once?

    OK, I'm off. Thunderstorms are affecting my l(a)unch window.

  15. carpbell

    Hard to replace the shuttle

    The reusable shuttle design really was a modern marvel at the time and I look forward to seeing the repalcement, and hope that it will be a whole lot more efficient and safer. Godspeed Atlantis!

  16. thecakeis(not)alie

    Fair winds, Atlantis

    Come home safe.

  17. Andus McCoatover

    I've just been watching the live video...

    Now, I've got to change my shorts AGAIN!!!

    Captain (flying Atlantis) whipped out a camera, but seemed a bit puzzled how to use it. OK, bit unfair, he's got his hands full I suppose.

    Maybe ther's no "procedure" for it.

    They do seem incredibly busy, wwith all those manuals they seem to have to read.

    I couldn't fly the bugger!

  18. Anteaus

    Big step backwards for mankind..

    ..but maybe the right way forward. Eventually.

    Appreciate the issues with the Shuttle, namely high operating costs and limited orbit altitude. Nevertheless it's the closest thing we as humanity have to a real spacecraft.

    Other systems might also get the people and supplies there, but are more akin to throwing a tin can up in the air. They are not spacecraft by any stretch of the imagination.

    Go, Atlantis. Make this a perfect final mission.

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