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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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Current header Photograph, Atlantis on Launch Pad 39-A, June 1, 2011. Photograph, Copyright 2011 by Anthony Achilles. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without written permission of the photographer

The Shuttle Atlantis completed its trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39-A shortly before 4 am, June 1, 2011. Lift-off from Pad 39-A will be no earlier than July 8, 2011, according to NASA.

Shortly after sunrise, with the Atlantis now on the Pad, but before the RSS cloaked her, the media was invited to visit her, go up on the RSS structure and photograph her.

The weather intervened. Some, but not all of the media taken to the Pad, were allowed up on the structure. These photographs are courtesy of Anthony Achilles, one of the few media who photographed Atlantis, and one of the few media ever allowed up onto the top of the RSS.

These extraordinary photographs are reproduced here through courtesy of an extraordinary photographer.

Looking down at the Atlantis from the top of the RSS at Launch Pad 39-A. Copyright 2011 by Anthony Achilles. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without written permission of the photographer.


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Looking down at the Atlantis from the top of the RSS at Launch Pad 39-A. Copyright 2011 by Anthony Achilles. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without written permission of the photographer.


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Photographer Anthony Achilles on top of the RSS at Launch Pad 39-A. The Atlantic Ocean is visible in the upper left of this photograph. Copyright 2011 by Anthony Achilles. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without written permission of the photographer.

The photographs in this post, Copyright 2011 by Anthony Achilles. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without written permission of the photographer

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