Archive for July, 2011

A contest was held to design a crest for the entire shuttle program. This was the crest selected and it was then placed on commemorative pins and other memorabilia.

Each of the 135 missions had its own crest and, at the completion of each mission, the crest was affixed in a ceremony to the wall of the Launch Control Firing Room from which the shuttle was launched in Florida, and on the Mission Control Center room in Houston from which the mission was controlled.


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Houston is home to the astronauts. A huge crowd of family and well-wishers surround the four STS-135 astronauts as they return, finally, home safely after their 13 day mission in space, and after the final mission of the Space Shuttle.


Political officals spoke as did all four astronauts. Then the astronauts melted into the crowd and signed autographs. This is one of two hangars where the homecoming rallies are held. Ellington Field is a few miles north of Johnson Space Center in Houston and once was an Air Force base.


The media had two areas but many could not get into the hangar because they were blocked by security. Finally a member of the Johnson Space Center public relations staff intervened and brought the media into the hangar allowing them to set up their tripods and other cameras. The event last about an hour.

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The control tower at Ellington Field is visible through a maze of tv cameras Friday afternoon, July 22, 2011, in Houston. The STS-135 astronauts have returned to their homes in Houston and are being welcomed by nearly a thousand people inside NASA Hangar 990.

This is the final event in STS-135 mission, and only one event remains in the 30-year history of the shuttle program — a celebration at Johnson Space Center in late August which will be August 20 or August 27, 2011.

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Thursday, 4 pm, July 21, 2011 The crew of STS-135 / Space Shuttle Atlantis successfully landed shortly before 6 am on their first orbit opportunity on July 21, 2011, on runway 15 in Florida.

After safeing the vehicle, a press conference was held on the runway, and then Atlantis was towed back to Orbiter Processing Facility #2 where a walk-around for NASA / Kennedy Space Center eomployees was held.

For many of these employees the landing was bittersweet. A large number will be laid off on Friday, July 22, 2011.

Following the employee ceremonies, Atlantis was returned to its hangar (OPF #2) and preparations to turn her over to the Kennedy Visitors Space Center sometime in 2012 will begin.

STS-135 was the last of 135 shuttle missions over the past 30 years.

NASA has no near term plans to fly manned missions again and has, in effect, ceded the American manned space program to the Russians and the Chinese.

On Friday, July 22, 2011 … the four Astronauts will fly to Houston in the morning and will attend a final public celebration of their successful mission in Hangar 990 at Ellington Field near the Johnson Space Center at 4 pm.

This gathering is open to the public. Doors open about 3:30 pm.

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In the far distance at left, tiny, remote and now empty, Pad 39-A. It may be years before 39-A is used again, if ever, but in the Apollo and the Space Shuttle years, both now ended, it was a very active pad sending men to the Moon eight times and, with Pad 39-B, the shuttle into space 135 times.

It is dawn at the Cape. This photo was taken at the press site.

The shuttle had safely landed on runway 15 on the Shuttle Landing Facility a few minutes earlier on a near perfect mission.

American’s ability to put its own astronauts into space onto the International Space Station is ended. Now, and in the foreseeable future, the United States astronauts will ride into space on the Russian Soyuz. Cost of the ride to American taxpayers?

Sixty-five million-dollars, roundtrip.

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The Space Shuttle Atlantis will land during one of the times below, and in one of the listed locations, between Thursday July 21 and Saturday July 23, 2011. The shuttles energy reserves will be 14 hours (it’s ability to keep flying) after these landing times.

STS-135 Mission crest. The final shuttle mission will end between Thursday morning, July 21, and Saturday afternoon, July 23, 2011.

Overnight, July 20-21, the shuttle undocked from the International Space Station (ISS), did a fly around the station before easing into an orbit that gradually, orbit by orbit, increased the distance between itself and the ISS. Atlantis is moving into a landing trajectory and then, about an hour before landing, will do a de-orbit burn to land at one of its three listed landing areas.

It is expected to land at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, the most preferred location of the three locations.

Tuesday afternoon, July 20, 2011, the weather looked favorable for the shuttle to successfully land in Florida on its first of two Florida opportunities. The shuttle would be landing at dawn on Thursday morning, July 22, 2011

The landing opportunites and locations are as follows:

KSC orbit 200 – 5:56 am EDT
KSC orbit 201 – 7:32 am EDT

KSC orbit 215 – 4:56 am EDT
KSC orbit 216 – 6:31 am EDT
EDW orbit 217 – 8:02 am EDT
NOR orbit 217 – 8:04 am EDT
EDW orbit 218 – 9:38 am EDT
NOR orbit 218 – 9:40 am EDT
EDW orbit 219 – 11:15 am EDT

KSC orbit 231 – 5:30 am EDT
KSC orbit 232 – 7:06 am EDT
NOR orbit 232 – 7:03 am EDT
EDW orbit 233 – 8:37 am EDT
NOR orbit 233 – 8:39 am EDT
EDW orbit 234 – 10:13 am EDT
KSC orbit 236 (descending) – 1:36 pm EDT

NASA / Johnson Space Center / July 19, 2011
NASA / KSC confirms times; NOR not listed as alternative / July 20, 2011

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Atlantis photographed from the ISS, July 10, 2011. -- courtesy of NASA-TV (http://www.nasa.org)

This photograph from the ISS is during the approach of the shuttle to docking on July 10, 2011, and yes, it is a real photograph courtesy of NASA-TV. When the shuttle undocked and began heading for home on July 19, 2011, the ISS was scheduled to turn 90-degrees and the shuttle was going to execute a 270-degree fly around while still traveling in tandem with the ISS. And then the shuttle was scheduled to slip away into its own orbit and begin its two day journey back to Earth.

If the shuttle does land on time shortly before 6 am, Thursday, July 21, 2011, the ISS will be passing 235 miles above Atlantis as she turns toward the runway. If, as is possible, both the shuttle and the ISS are visible, they may well appear for a few moments that morning to be traveling together. And then the ISS will fly on — to 2020 or perhaps 2028 or longer.

And Atlantis will land, never to fly again.

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