|Space shuttle orbiter
Atlantis left planet Earth
on Friday, July 8, embarking on the STS-135 mission
to the International Space Station.
The momentous launch was the final one
in NASA's 30 year
space shuttle program
that began with the launch of the first reusable spacecraft on
April 12, 1981.
In this reflective
prelaunch image from July 7,
Atlantis stands in
a familiar spot on the
Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A, after an early evening
roll back of the pad's Rotating Service Structure.
The historic orbital
voyages of Atlantis have included a
Hubble Space Telescope
servicing mission, deployment of
Galileo, and the
Compton Gamma-ray Observatory,
and seven trips to the Russian
space station Mir.
Scheduled to dock once again with the
International Space Station
on Sunday, Atlantis has now made its 33rd and final trip to orbit.