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Archive for June, 2011

Best VIEWING Places
NASA’s best viewing places
, HERE

Mission Summary
NASA online STS-135 Mission Summary HERE

Other Mission Vitae

STS-135 scheduled to Launch Shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011 — final launch in the shuttle program.

STS-135 scheduled for 12 day mission ending at 7:06 am, July 20, 2011.

This shuttle may be launched later, but will not be launched earlier than this date. The shuttle will not land earlier than the landing time, and may, even if launched on time, be unable to land until later orbits, and even may be unable to land in Florida.

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Media visits to the Discovery on June 21, 2011, were not a crowded event. Media went onto Discovery's decks two at a time and had fifteen minutes or more to root around and explore. Carol Anne Swagler of The Grove Sun and Seine/Harbour® Productions is on the far right.

About these 19 Photos. On June 21, 2011, NASA invited about 85 members of the media to Florida to visit the Shuttle Discovery, now in High Bay Number 1 of the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) (OPF= hangar).

Each member of the media was assigned a one hour slot, and given 15 minutes on the decks, crawlways and bay inside the Discovery where a member of the Flow Team was available.

This was the second, and probably last time, general media will visit the Discovery before she goes to the Smithsonian Museum at Dulles International Airport early in 2012. In April, NASA also allowed selected members of the media into High Bay 1. At that time the dismantling of the Discovery’s recoverable parts and removal of hazmat materials, now well progressed, had not begun.

The Flight Deck of the Shuttle Discovery.

The formal name of the Discovery, the oldest survivor in the fleet, is “OV-103”. This stands for “Orbiter Vehicle, Number 3”.

In all five operational orbiters were built. In order they were Columbia (lost over Texas), Challenger (lost on liftoff), Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. Only the latter three orbiters survive.

The photos below were taken either by Peter Michael Crow or by Carol Anne Swagler on June 21, 2011 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
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The nose wheel of the Discovery. The landing gear of the shuttle is dropped only seconds before touchdown because once the gear is dropped whatever lift the shuttle has, which is very little, is gone. Rightly, descent of the shuttle to landing is akin to watching a rock fall out of the sky. This photo is taken from under the shuttle looking toward the front. The insulating heat tiles are directly above, and above that, the crew compartment.


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Flight deck on the Discovery, and the Commander's lefthand seat. The windows were covered and therefore it was dark inside the flight deck and crew compartment. The five seats in the crew compartment had already been removed.


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The console to the right of the Commander. To command a shuttle, you must first ride in the second seat on a mission and spend a year or more training on the ground. To dock at the International Space Station (ISS), the commander gets out of his seat, turns around 180-degrees and, facing the orbiter bay and air lock, uses only two controls (shown below) to ease the shuttle to docking devises on the ISS.


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Carol Anne Swagler on flight deck of the Shuttle Discovery. Ms. Swagler shot both video and still photographs. Others had suggested, correctly, that flash would be needed on the shuttle decks. The schedule became more complicated as the day went on when two foreign wire service photographers showed up and pressured KSC public affairs staff (successfully) to be allowed onto the Discovery. Others also tried to squeeze additional members of their staffs into the tight schedule.


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There are two windows on the flight deck looking directly into the orbiter bay. In the forward end of the bay is the hatch where the shuttle docks with the ISS, and where astronauts have ingress and egress from the ISS and the shuttle by crawling through a small crawlway (shown below). To dock, the shuttle commander stands here, gazing out the left window. One of the two controls he uses to dock is shown -- it is the block handle just to the right of the lefthandside window. Both docking controls are shown in the next photograph.


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Both docking controls -- there are only two -- are shown here. The left hand docking control, the black knob to the left and just below the window, is smaller than the larger black handle to the right and below the window. Both levers are roughly on the same level. Just call me if you still can't find them. The shuttle commander docks by looking out this window. It takes the shuttle roughly two days after liftoff at Kennedy Space Center to catch up with and dock with the ISS about 200 miles above the Earth. The shuttle and the ISS orbit at about 18,000 miles an hour which takes 88-90 minutes per orbit. To land in Florida, the shuttle undocks and then does a de-orbit burn commonly over India or between India and Australia on the other side of the world. Once that de-orbit burn takes place the shuttle has no where else to go except KSC -- she is coming to the SLF at KSC. For the next 60 minutes the shuttle descends slowing, circling half of the world. Her speed declines from 18,000 mph to about 200 mph on landing. Pete has witnessed many landings in Florida and in California and says, "it never gets old; it gets me every time."


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The crawlway from the crew compartment to the orbiter bay and hatch. This is the crawlway crew uses to ingress and egress the ISS. This is Pete in the crawlway. Crawling is the only way to traverse it. Pete's jeans, belt buckle (lower left) and his feet wearing special booties suppied by NASA are visible. The view is toward the front of the shuttle. Directly above Pete is the hatch that docks with the ISS. Behind him is the orbiter bay -- his head actually is partly in the bay at this moment. The controls to open and close the hatch (photo below) are on his left and right. In the background in the crew compartment Carol Anne confers with a NASA Flow staff member in the Crew Compartment. The Flight Deck is the upper compartment; the crew compartment, the second of two shuttle decks, is directly below the flight deck. Entering the shuttle through a main hatch, you are on the Crew Deck. Access to the crawlway and the separate small ISS hatch is also located on the crew deck. To get to the flight deck you climb up a narrow ladder.


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ISS Docking/Hatch Controls -- used to open and close the hatch to the ISS. When Pete asked "what question do you wish someone would ask," a NASA tech replied "no one asks why the control to open the ISS hatch are upsidedown." So Pete asked and the guy told him, and now Pete has forgotten. Actually it has to do with how astronauts are lying when opening and closing the hatch. To us it looks like this photograph is upsidedown. To an astronaut in space, it looks just fine.


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This is the hatch to get to and from the ISS. The shuttle and the ISS docking devices are located just outside this hatch. To see the other wide of this hatch from the orbiter's bay, scroll down. The hatch is located toward the front of the shuttle and is accessed through a small crawlway. Orientation of this photo is toward top of the shuttle. The bottom of the shuttle with its insulating tile is directly opposite. This photo is taken by lying in the crawlway between the crew compartment and the orbiter's bay.


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The most common question crew and visitors alike ask is "where the bathroom?" Here's it is, just beyond this door on the crew deck adjacent to the main entrance hatch and to the right of the crawlway to the docking/ISS hatch. Got it? Now go use the restroom out in the hangar, second door on the left.


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The main desk at High Bay 1, OPF. There's nothing simple about servicing the orbiters. Every seven flights they had to be returned to Palmdale where they were manufactured and torn apart. The orbiters as built were extensively updated over their lives. Built to fly at least 100 times, none of the fleet of five flew anywhere near that number of flights. With only 135 flights for the entire fleet, the orbiters are being sent to museums with a lot of life left in them. What did in the program? The cost, and a lack of public interest. When President Barrack Obama visited Kennedy in April he and his family looked bored and stood around while being briefed with their arms folded and often were looking somewhere else.


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Safety signs are everywhere at Kennedy Space Center. No rings, keys, cellphones or anything in your pockets above the waist are allowed in the OPF. NASA was in the past in the business of doing the impossible. When President John Kennedy declared the US was going to the Moon in 1961, no one knew how to get there. When the US Air Force wanted an invisible plane, no one had any idea how to do it. This is what science does -- get a mission, get the money and then everybody stand back. Soon you're on the Moon. Soon you've got a plane invisible to radar. Current NASA officals, and perhaps Mr. Obama himself, apparently do not understand what science does or how it operates. When the second highest NASA offical spoke to Tweeters at KSC last year she declared that the Obama administration had canceled Constellation, the shuttle replacement, "because it doesn't work." The Tweeters, far more sophisticated than she imagined hooted and began yelling at her and she fled. Constellation was soon re-instated, but then killed again.


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Shuttle close-ups: A Nose you cannot help but love. This is the front nose of the shuttle. The cockpit/flight deck windows (shown below), not really visible in this picture. The windows are not behind the silver covering -- that is an optical illusion. The flight deck windows are at the top of this photograph, just below the white beam.


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Shuttle close-ups: Flight decks window, looking directly down. There are four front facing windows.


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Shuttle close-ups: Insulating tiles on the bottom of the shuttle. The hole in the middle of each tile is to check whether moisture has gotten in behind the tiles. The tiles are bonded to the shuttle, but the tiles will absorb great amounts of water if the seal is breached. This would endanger the shuttle. After landing every tile was carefully checked before the shuttle was sent into space again.


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NASA has been removing everything from the shuttle that might be of later use. The cost of purchasing engines for a later space project, for example, can be saved if the shuttle engines are moved and stored. In April when we visited the OPF the Discovery engines were still in place. Now, shown in this photo, they have been removed and stored. Mockups matching exactly the appearance of the engines and other parts will be on the shuttle when she arrives in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian in early 2012. Discovery will look the same -- but she will not be. This is a mild point of contention between NASA and the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian argues that by having a complete shuttle, exactly as flown, the shuttle will be available for later study. But that is not to be -- budget constraints and worries about availability of money for future space projects has made NASA wary and protective of what it has. NASA is keeping the shuttle engines and other parts. The Smithsonian gets painted plywood.


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Shuttle close-ups: The bay of the shuttle. The front of the shuttle is to our right; the back to our left. The docking hatch is roughly halfway up this photograph on the righthand side. The crew compartment and flight deck are to our right. The photo is taken standing beside, not on the shuttle itself.


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We were invited to sign our names on the wall as we left the Shuttle Discovery. Our signatures appear in the lower right of this photo.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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On June 21, 2011, NASA invited 85 journalists to come to Florida, visit and photograph the inside and outside of the Shuttle Discovery, the oldest survivor of the Shuttle fleet. Early next year Discovery will be taken to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, and placed on display. On Tuesday, June 21, the media were allowed on both decks of the Discovery, invited to crawl to the hatch which attached the Discovery to the International Space Station, and to the cargo bay. They were free to prowl outside and around the Shuttle which is in High Bay 1, Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF).

As the media were leaving the Discovery flight deck, they were invited to sign their names on the wall using a marker.

The header photograph is a portion of the wall where media, and others, signed. At the Smithsonian it is believed the public will have no access to the decks of the Discovery and the signatures of the media, the workers and others who contributed to this remarkable program and who were invited to sign the wall will be visible only to Museum officials.

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These 20 photographs were taken by either Pete Crow or Carol Anne Swagler on June 17, 2011 between 5:30 am and 3:30 pm at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

DAWN, June 17, 2011 === A camera bank on the south side of Pad 39-A tracks the launches. Shuttles were launched from either Pad 39-A or, five-eighths of a mile north, Pad 39-B. By the time of the STS-135 launch, the final launch in the shuttle program, Pad 39-B had been torn torn in order to be re-purposed for the Constellation program which was eventually canceled.


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The shuttles are brought to the launch pad from the vehicle assembly building (the VAB) on a highway made of river rock from Alabama and Mississippi. The final highway up and onto the launch pad itself is a grate encased in concrete. In this photo the rotating service structure is open, but in order to place the payload into the shuttle, the RSS would be closed and would remain closed with the shuttle until about 18 hours before launch.


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This is a closeup of the concreted grated roadway on the launch pad.


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The Rotating Service Structure pivots to cover the shuttle, and away to allow delivery of the payload (white box midway up the RSS, and for launch. This photo was after the payload had been delivered to the pad, but prior to placement of the payload into the bay of the shuttle.


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Two elevators go from the floor of the pad to Level 255. The RSS continues on to level 295, but to get there you walk up stairs. The RSS' floors are not called "floors" -- they are called "levels" and are designated in how many feet a level is above the pad floor. The elevator panel shows this elevator is at Level 255 or, 255 feet above the pad's floor.


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The views from Level 255 at the top of the RSS are spectacular, especially if it is a clear day. This photograph looks toward the northwest, to the now demolished Pad 39-B where shuttles were also launched, and to the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The launch pads at Kennedy Space Center are all only short distances from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The idea was to launch over the ocean and should mishaps occur, not to endanger anyone.


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Flooring on the RSS is all open metal grate which means by looking up or down you can see either sky or the base of the pad. This photograph, taken at Level 235 looks up at people walking on Level 255. If heights bother you, walking the open grates on the top of the RSS will terrify you Oddly, Pete -- no lover of heights -- loved this place. Carol Anne, always fearless, tended to hang by the elevators at first before testing how sturdy the metal grating was with her foot..


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This is another view from Level 255. This is toward the northeast. The Atlantic Ocean is about midway up the photograph. Note the balloon with the picture of the bird hanging. It is just to the left of the water tower.


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Birds, and specifically woodpeckers, are a serious threat to the shuttle because they attack the covering of the main booster rocket. Two people are stationed on the pad, one on the top of the pad, and one person on the bottom. When they see a bird that might threaten the shuttle, they blow horns to scare them away. Balloons with pictures of scary birds are also attached in different places to scare off the woodpeckers.


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Birds are not only a probably at the launch pad, they are also a concern when the shuttle is landing on the Shuttle Landing Facility (runway). Sometimes, prior to landing, canons will be set off to scare the birds off. The woman, center of picture, is sitting beside, and looking at, the bottom of the booster rockets which are out of frame on the left. She is one of two bird guards. She is armed with a small air horn which she blows when she sees a threatening bird. She works 12 hour shifts. Bird guarding the shuttle is a cat-and-mouse game. Note the bird on the railing in the far right of the picture watching the woman who is watching the rockets (out of view to her left). Not all birds get the horn, mostly its the woodpeckers.


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On the right is a walkway leading into the shuttle. This is where the crew enters the flight deck. The rockets that power the shuttle into space are in the middle and left of the picture. This was taken, looking down, from Level 255. During the day, we would eventually visit all elevator levels, starting at the top of the RSS and gradually working our way down.


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This view is roughly equivalent in height to the 16th floor of the Vehicle Assembly Building. To take this picture, Pete moved far out to the end of the RSS, then climbed a narrow walkway and stood on a catwalk on Level 235. He would have never found it himself. The NASA escort, Pat, showed him in detail how to get there; she didn't go with him, but eventually Carol Anne did.


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Another Level 235 view, showing move of the RSS in relation to the shuttle.


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Carol Anne at Level 235. NASA took journalists onto the RSS in groups of five and allowed them lots of time to roam and explore. With the shuttle program ending, many facilities hitherto highly restricted to only a few members of the media are now being made accessible.


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Level 195 is the crew access level and can be a busy place. It is the only level that we saw that has a detailed map of what is where.


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This walkway leads from the RSS, and the elevators, to middeck of the shuttle. Directly behind us is the RSS. Directly ahead of us, through those two doors, is the middeck of the Shuttle Atlantis. Why are there yellow arrows on the floor? Because once suited up the astronauts can see very little, except the floor. Why do the arrows lead away from, instead of to the shuttle? Because the arrows lead to escape baskets. If a mishap should occur and the astronauts had to escape from the shuttle while still on the pad, they would follow these arrows to the baskets..


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The arrows lead here. Astronauts would individually get into one of seven baskets, release a lever and be ziplined to safety below. Their landing site at the end of the zipline is the white space visible in distance. The device was never used, and astronauts, while knowing how to use the devices, never practiced. Years ago press conferences with the astronauts were held at the bottom of the zipline with the RSS and shuttle in the background. This is a view to the north.


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This is not the base of the pad, but it is the bottom of the shuttle and the rockets. This is an industrial place. This is a south view. The woman with the air horn is to our left. The highway leading to the Pad is on our right. The rockets are in the left of the picture extending upward, and the shuttle, attached to the rockets, is on the mid-right of the photograph. Media were allowed to walk right up to the shuttle and rockets, but not under the shuttle's wings.


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The shuttle is on the right, and the rockets on the left. Pete has covered dozens of missions all the way back to Apollo in 1972, but as he said to his escort the day he visited the RSS and Pad 39-A, "this gets me every time." The escort, who has worked at KSC for many years was similarly moved and replied simply, "me too." The end of the shuttle program is doubly hard because the United States has no further manned space mission plans in its pipeline. From now on to get to the International Space Station that the United States largely built, the United States will be paying the Russians and riding on their vehicles.


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NASA took the media to the RSS in groups of five. As we left the Pad Pete asked the escort to stop for a last look. Exiting the van Pete stepped back against the fence and took this picture. The man in the photo is another journalist who toured the RSS with Pete and Carol Anne. The location appears to be in the middle of no where, but actually is steps from the guard gate, the crawler way and the pad exit.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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Dawn, Friday June 17, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39-A. Atlantis is on the pad, and the RSS (rotating service structure) is open. During the night the final payload in the shuttle program arrived at the pad ready to be placed in the Atlantis cargo bay.

The media and KSC employees were invited to visit 39-A on Friday, June 17, 2011.

Shuttles were launched from either Pad 39-A or Pad 39-B during the shuttle program from 1981 to 2011. Today only Pad 39-A remains.

Pad 39-B was in the process of being repurposed for the Constellation program, when President Obama canceled the Constellation program, reinstated it, and then canceled it again.

The future of both Pad 39-A and the now demolished Pad 39-B, like the future of the American spaceport at Kennedy Space Center, is uncertain.

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CLICK to ENLARGE // Over Pete Crow's left shoulder, the white rectangular box holds the payload for the Atlantis shown here on Pad 39-A the afternoon of June 17, 2011. The payload arrived overnight June 16-17 at the pad and will be loaded into the Atlantis' bay on Monday, June 20. - photo, Carol Anne Swagler for Seine/Harbour® Productions

Atlantis edged closer to its planned July 8, 2011, launch on Friday, June 17, 2011, when the payload for its bay arrived at Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Friday was employee day at the Pad. All KSC employees who wished to visit the Launch Pad were invited to do so although, unlike the press, they were not allowed to go onto the Pad itself, or up on the Rotating Service Structure (the RSS).

The RSS is currently retracted from the Shuttle, and in the photograph is behind and to the right of Pete. But beginning on Monday and until about 18 hours before launch, the RSS will be tucked around and protecting the Shuttle allowing, among other activities, the payload to be placed into the Atlantis’ cargo bay.

See video of how it works HERE.

The cargo on this final launch in the shuttle program’s 30-year history includes provisions for the International Space Shuttle for a year and an innovative new way to re-energize fading satellites in space.

When STS-135, the current mission, ends in late July, NASA will have launched its shuttle fleet 135 times with two tragic mishaps, a safety record far better than the estimates at the beginning of the program in 1981 when one estimate anticipated the loss of a shuttle every 25 missions.
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Atlantis viewed from Level 255 of the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) on June 17, 2011. The RSS does not have floors, it has "levels" measured in feet. The highest the elevators in the RSS go is level 255, or 255 feet above the pad floor. However, stairways on the RSS continue up an additional 40 feet above the highest elevator level ending at Level 295. Visitors to the RSS are escorted by people who receive extensive safety training. When exiting elevators, visitors are encouraged to "look up -- do not look down" because the RSS is built with almost entirely open grate flooring. Narrow catwalks extend from the center of the structure with only modest railings. If heights bother you, walking on open grates at the top of the RSS will terrify you. - photo, petecrow for Seine/Harbour® Productions

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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from the video

Preparing for Launch, and Launch
Video of Rollover from Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF = hangar), Lift-to-Mate in the Vehicle Assembly Building, Rollout to Launch Pad 39-A, and Launch
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HERE.
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Click the link. I mean it. Do it now. There is no sound until the launch in the final seconds. (this link courtesy of Dale Duckworth)
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from the video


Viewing Earth from the Shuttle Atlantis

After launch, go on board the Shuttle Atlantis and look down at the world
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HERE.
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(this link courtesy of Francie Marrs)

View both of these videos in Full Screen if you can.

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