Space Shuttle Atlantis readies for final voyage.
The six astronauts — all men — waved and shook their fists as they headed to the launch pad at mid-morning.
The 12 day mission is the last one for Atlantis. Only two flights remain after this one, by Endeavor and Discovery. The Obama administration has called for an end to the 30 year program which is scheduled to end this year. The president wants NASA to focus on reaching an asteroid by 2025 and then on to a trip to Mars by 2035.
Atlantis is the fourth in NASA’s lineup of space shuttles. It’s first trip into space was in 1985. Atlantis has made 32 of the 132 shuttle missions. Two shuttles were destroyed in flight.
The Atlantis mission is to deliver fresh batteries, laptop computers, a Russian built compartment, and food for the orbiting space station which will continue to operate at least until 2020.
It has not been determined as to where Atlantis will be placed to rest. For now, the shuttle, after it returns from this last mission, will be prepared for possible rescue missions.