Timely launch for shuttle on its final mission
TITUSVILLE, Fla., July 8 -- The weather was unsuccessful Friday in its attempt to postpone the final shuttle launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
At 11:29 a.m., the space shuttle Atlantis began its 33rd mission. Mission STS-135 is the last planned mission for the shuttle program, which for decades captured the imaginations of would-be space pioneers. After 30 years, an adventure that directly involved people from 16 countries around the world has come to an end.
According to NASA's official website, the shuttle's final mission is to resupply the International Space Station.
On board Atlantis is a four person crew commanded by Chris Ferguson and piloted by Doug Hurley. They are joined by two missions specialists: Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim. On her Twitter account, Magnus expressed her enthusiasm for the program and appreciation of her followers.
"Thanks everyone for the well-wishes!!!!" she wrote. "We really appreciate it and are glad so many people are interested in the space program!!!"
Throngs of people flocked to Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Fla., and Cape Canaveral, Fla., to get a glimpse of the shuttle's final journey into space. Ian Sutcliffe and his daughter, Chloe Sutcliffe, on vacation from England, left their hotel room in Clearwater, Fla. at 7 a.m. and arrived just in time for the launch.
The vacation was not planned around the launch, Sutcliffe said.
"We had no idea, no idea that it was going on," he said.
As soon as the shuttle disappeared into the clouds, it was a race to get back on the road. Shilpa Iyenga and her family stood next to their van waiting for the traffic to clear.
"I was expecting to hear some noise," she said. "I came for one a couple of launches ago and got a little closer, but it was good. I was just happy it launched because (weather forecasters) were saying it wasn't going to launch today."
Francisco Mayo, a resident of Land O' Lakes, Fla., got an early start to see the launch.
"The drive was long, very long," he said. "My GPS said it would take two and a half hours to get here. It took five (hours,) and I just barely made it. I'm not looking forward to the drive home."