Photos: The Final Launch Of Space Shuttle Atlantis

May 15, 2010


Space shuttle Atlantis launched Friday afternoon on its final planned mission.

The STS-132 launch  put Atlantis in pursuit of its target, the International Space Station. Atlantis lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center right on time at 2:20 p.m. EDT, rising into a picture-perfect Florida sky and capping a relatively problem-free countdown.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Melissa Aiken Rawson of Cantonment who took the photos on this page for “It was great to be a part of that history.”

atlantis12.jpg“Launch was just phenomenal,” said Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier during a postlaunch news conference. He cited the launch and processing teams’ hard work in preparing Atlantis for liftoff, even with a tighter timeframe after the vehicle’s rollout to Launch Pad 39A was delayed in late April due to weather.

“The teams stayed focused, they kept moving forward and they just did a great job,” Gerstenmaier added. “The vehicle looks like it’s in really good shape. We’re ready to go do the very challenging mission in front of us.”

Atlantis’ on-time liftoff followed a countdown remarkably free of problems. A small stress fracture spotted on an umbilical strut during the vehicle’s final inspection is not unusual, according to Mike Moses, chair of the prelaunch Mission Management Team. Moses also mentioned an issue that was brought up during the countdown’s final hold, concerning a ball bearing found days earlier in the shuttle’s payload bay. The bearing was determined to likely be a part of a camera system, and was ultimately ruled out as a concern.

And although weather is a frequent prelaunch topic at the Florida launch site, the day started out with a 70 percent “go” forecast, which improved to 90 percent “go” by launch time.

“It was a great launch today,” said Launch Director Mike Leinbach. “I’m very, very proud of the team. It’s the start of a good mission.

During the 12-day flight, Atlantis and six astronauts will fly to the International Space Station, leaving behind a Russian Mini Research Module, a set of batteries for the station’s truss and dish antenna, along with other replacement parts. Atlantis’ 32nd flight is scheduled to last 12 days and include three spacewalks and extensive robotics work.

Saturday, the six astronauts will survey the shuttle’s heat shield, checkout the spacesuits for the upcoming spacewalks and prepare for docking to the International Space Station on Sunday.

NASA astronaut Ken Ham commands an all-veteran flight crew: Pilot Tony Antonelli, and Mission Specialists Michael Good, Garrett Reisman, Piers Sellers and Steve Bowen.

Pictured top and inset: The final flight of space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from Kennedy Space Center Friday afternoon. Pictured below: The crew of STS-132 as they head toward the launch pad. photos by Melissa Aiken Rawson, click to enlarge.



5 Responses to “ Photos: The Final Launch Of Space Shuttle Atlantis”

  1. Rachel on May 16th, 2010 10:20 pm

    This was amazing. I was there. You could hear the engine noise from the Shuttle. Everyone who was in the park across the bay were cheering the Astronauts on and did the count down. It was definately a ONCE IN A LIFETIME EVENT for me to see. My aunt had past away and seeing the Shuttle was a HUGE bonus. Thank you NASA for all you do for us and come home safe guys.

  2. ewms student on May 16th, 2010 12:22 pm

    isnt that just amazing

  3. CONCERNED PARENT on May 15th, 2010 4:10 pm


  4. Pcola on May 15th, 2010 11:46 am

    Too freakin awesome!!!

  5. Century Resident on May 15th, 2010 7:21 am

    Thanks Melissa for taking these pictures. They are cool.

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