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The Last Flight of Atlantis

April 23, 2010

From Sputnik to the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the short history of spaceflight is composed of a succession of notable events and moments, leaving change as the only consistent feature. Yesterday, Space Shuttle Atlantis rolled to Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A for the last time.

In the 25 years it’s been in service, Atlantis brought the Magellan and Galileo probes to space, flown to the Soviet (then Russian) space station Mir 7 times, and delivered several key components of the International Space Station. Last May, Atlantis brought astronauts to service the Hubble Space Telescope for the last time, a mission documented by an episode of NOVA and the Hubble 3D IMAX movie (I saw it twice. Did I cry both times? That’s between me and my 3D glasses.)

Cumulatively, Atlantis has spent around 270 days in space, which means it’s travelled in the neighborhood of 113,400,000 miles in orbit. Its final mission, scheduled for launch on May 14, will bring it to the International Space Station to construct a laboratory and a cargo area.


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