“Mission complete, Houston. After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history, and it’s come to a final stop.”
— STS-135 Commander Christopher Ferguson
This morning, on July 21, 2011 at 5:57 am EDT, the space shuttle Atlantis and the STS-135 mission crew landed at Kennedy Space Center. It was the final landing of the last flight of the shuttle program, bringing its 33rd flight and a 30-year era of shuttle missions to a close.
The official time of wheel stop was 4:57.54 am CDT. That was the last self-powered forward motion of a shuttle.
Welcome home, Atlantis.
Here’s a list of stats about Atlantis and the STS-135 mission:
- 135th Space Shuttle mission
- 33rd flight of Atlantis (125,935,769 statute miles)
- 307 total days Atlantis has spent in space on 33 missions
- 37th Shuttle / Station assembly mission
- 10:29:04 am — Launched Monday, May 16 (100th day launch out of 135 missions)
- 4:57:00 am — Landed Thursday, July 21 (19th night KSC landing; 25 night landings total)
- 12/18:27:56 — Mission Elapsed Time – main gear touchdown (days/hours/minutes/seconds)
- 5,284,862 statute miles traveled (total Atlantis – 125,935,769; Shuttle – 542,398,878)
- 200 orbits (4,848 total on 33 missions)
- 10:07 am — Docked to the International Space Station Sun July 10 (MET 1/23:38)
- 1:28 am — Undocking of a shuttle from the ISS for the last time (MET 10/14:59)
- 08/15:21 — Docked duration (assembly record is STS-123 at 11/20:36)
- 202 different “visitors” to the space station representing 15 countries
- 852 Space Shuttle seats filled
- 355 individuals flown on the Space Shuttle
- 30,576 pounds of hardware to station – includes MPLM, LMC, RRM & PicoSat
- 28,100 pounds of hardware from station – includes MPLM, LMC, & PM
- 65 pounds of Oxygen transferred to ISS (stack repress)
- 111 pounds of Nitrogen transferred to ISS (stack repress)
- 1,652 pounds of water transferred to ISS
- 1,283 pounds of middeck items delivered to ISS aboard Atlantis
- 723 pounds of middeck items returned from ISS aboard Atlantis
- 901,745 pounds — Mass in space of the International Space Station (in pounds)
- 100 — Percentage complete of ISS assembly (pressurized volume)
- 1 — Spacewalks completed totaling 6 hrs,31 min (E28’s Mike Fossum/Ron Garan)
- 1,009:09 — Hours & minutes of EVA time devoted to ISS assembly (~ 42 days of EVA time)
- 160 — Number of EVAs devoted to ISS assembly
- 249 — Total number of EVAs performed by U.S. astronauts
I got up to watch the event live on NASA TV. The landing went perfectly, and I admit it was a bit emotional… especially since I was there in person to watch it launch back on July 8th. Somehow, even though I knew it was the last launch, while it was still up there in orbit it seemed as if everything was as usual. It wasn’t until its wheels touched down and it came to a stop that the reality set in: this is it. There are no more.
I was four years old when the first shuttle launched. It’s hard to imagine a time without them.
It’s also interesting how much attention they have been given recently too, as each shuttle completed its final mission and was retired in turn, up to and now including Atlantis. The emotions are running strongly; sadness for the end of the program and anger at the politics behind it, confusion as to what’s next for the US space program… but also hope for the coming era of exploration and private-sector technologies. And emotion is good, since the alternative is ambivalence. Which never got anyone anywhere.
But it also goes to show that people really don’t know what they’ve got until it’s gone. I guess that’s just human nature.
Not that the shuttles will ever really be gone. Not as long as we remember sights like these:
And really, how could we forget?
Thank you Atlantis, and all of the shuttles and their crews. A job well done.