Space shuttle Atlantis leaps from the launch pad on the final flight of the space shuttle program as STS-135. Burning over 20,000 lbs of fuel every second, Atlantis will accelerate to 28,000 km/h over the course of eight minutes.
Space shuttle Atlantis clears the tower on the final launch of the space shuttle program, STS-135. Once clear of the tower, control is transferred from the Kennedy Space Centre to Mission Control in Houston for the duration of the flight.
Some closeup details of space shuttle Atlantis during her final rollover reveal surprisingly complex surfaces. Top: reinforced carbon carbon panels and tiles on the port wingtip. Center: thermal blankets on the port OMS pod and covered RCS thrusters. Bottom: nose details with RCC cap, TPS tiles, and thermal blankets.
NASA employees at the Kennedy Space Centre display a quilt in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building of every single mission patch dating back to 1981’s STS-1. Photo: Michael Spooneybarger.
A wall of cameras line the shoreline of the press site at Kennedy Space Centre for the final launch of the space shuttle program.
A gentleman conducts Important Business on his phone as Atlantis reaches for the clouds during the final launch of the space shuttle program.
A remote camera set up on a dry lake bed captures space shuttle Atlantis clearing the tower during launch of STS-135. Heavy rains preceding launch day dramatically changed the nature of this photograph, turning the foreground from a brilliant landscape of caked and broken earth to something approaching a mudbowl.
An American alligator, common at the Kennedy Space Centre, chews on a toothpick outside one of NASA’s administrative buildings.
Condensation clouds form around the nose of Atlantis’ solid rocket boosters as the space shuttle makes the transition to supersonic speed. The effect can be seen below, in a frame taken from one of NASA’s HD video cameras mounted to the External Tank:
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield gives an interview at the press site of the Kennedy Space Centre. Hadfield flew on two shuttle missions, STS-74 (Atlantis) and STS-100 (Endeavour).
A gopher tortoise, possible older than the space shuttle program itself, basks in the sun outside of its burrow in the press site, gazing towards launch pad 39A.
The crackling thunder of space shuttle Atlantis’ twin Solid Rocket Boosters fades into the humid Florida sky during the final launch of NASA’s space shuttle program, STS-135, bringing the curtain down on a 30-year old technological marvel. Note: if the audio player doesn’t appear, click the title (Launch of STS-135) to view the actual post.
The skull of a great blue heron, time-worn and well weathered, shows off the distinctive heron shape, with a long beak for catching fish in shallow waters.
An infrared view of the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour, as seen from the dike road at Kennedy Space Centre. The External Tank turns white in infrared, harking back to the early days of the Program when the ET was originally painted white. This is an unfinished image, the final image processed from RAW […]
Space shuttle Endeavour streaks toward the clouds as photographed by a remote camera set up on Kennedy Space Centre’s dike road.
Endeavour’s commander Mark Kelly says a few words after arriving at the Kennedy Space Centre for the second launch attempt.
Endeavour’s flag flies proudly over Launch Complex 39A. This is actually a fairly difficult shot to get, 95% of the time the wind blows the flag backwards.
The Rotating Service Structure is rolled back from space shuttle Endeavour for the first launch attempt, revealing the youngest orbiter in the fleet over the course of 45 minutes (click the play button to view the timelapse).
Waiting for launch of space shuttle Endeavour, a tour of the Orbiter Processing Facility takes the wideangle lens underneath space shuttle Discovery, her thermal protection tiles stretching off to the distant nose gear.
An iridescent dragonfly alights on a small branch in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
A softshell turtle relaxes on land on the Maritime Hammock Trail of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
A brown anole does its best to ward off the photographer on the Maritime Hammock Trail of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
An American White Ibis wades on the shores of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Space shuttle Endeavour, shortly after rollback of the Rotating Service Structure, sits bathed in Xenon lights for the final time.