Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rise & Roll of Shuttle Atlantis


The United Space Alliance (USA) built six space shuttle OVs, or "Orbital Vehicles": Enterprise (1976), Columbia (1981), Challenger (1983), Discovery (1984), Atlantis (1985), and Endeavour (1992).

Space Shuttle Atlantis, or OV-104, was constructed by Rockwell in California. Atlantis was the only vehicle which provided it's own internal power through fuel cells, and thus was not required to draw power from the ISS while docked in orbit. She flew 33 missions total.

Heather with Shuttle Atlantis
Me at the last Shuttle launch. With ATLANTIS!
Dream. Come. True.

In 1989, Space Shuttle Atlantis deployed the planetary proves Magellan to Venus (on STS-30) and Galileo to Jupiter (STS-34). In 1991, she deployed the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (STS-37).

Dependable Atlantis was our first fleet lady to dock to Space Station Mir in 1995. STS-71 also marked the 100th manned launch by the USA and the 5-day dock created the largest craft in orbit at the time (225 metric tons). Over the next few years, she would make 6 more flights to Mir.

The fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope was performed by Atlantis STS-125 in May 2009. In a marathon upgrade, Atlantis captured Hubble to replace gyroscopes, computers, and scientific instruments over a whopping 37 hours of space walks – making the telescope 100 times more powerful than when it launched!

Space Shuttle Atlantis
My favorite portrait of Atlantis

Yelena Kondakova was the first Russian female to complete a long-duration mission on Mir in 1994, and then in 1997 she was the first, and now forever only, Russian woman to fly on the Space Shuttle (STS-84)... and the orbiter who flew the only Russian woman Cosmonaut? You guessed it! Atlantis.

The last flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis was the final mission of the entire Space Shuttle program, which began service in 1981. She delivered a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module and Lightweight Multi-Purpose Carrier to the ISS on STS-135. On July 10, 2011, her docking in orbit marked the last time an American Space Shuttle rendezvoused with the International Space Station.

Click to Embiggen
NASA Archives: One of the many bridges
full of space fans watching STS-135 lift off!

This 135th flight of the Space Shuttle Orbiter was the 37th Shuttle trip to the ISS, and the 166th American manned launch. Crowds in Florida gathered in parks, along beaches, across bridges and along the highways were estimated in the MILLIONS. I was there, and I can tell you there was not a hotel room to be found within hundreds of miles of Cape Canaveral!

Actor Seth Green introduced "The Atlantis Fanfare" by musical composer Bear McCreary, known for composing the television themes for Battlestar Galactic and Eureka. So our STS-135 launch had her very own theme song!