Last shuttle readies for launch

2011-07-05 11:27
STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson climbs out a T-38 jet after arriving at the Kennedy Space Centre with his fellow crew in Cape Canaveral. (Terry Renna, AP)

STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson climbs out a T-38 jet after arriving at the Kennedy Space Centre with his fellow crew in Cape Canaveral. (Terry Renna, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Canaveral - The four astronauts who will close out Nasa's 30-year space shuttle programme arrived on Monday for their history-making launch week, saluting the nation's birthday and all those who contributed to Atlantis' final flight.

The launch countdown begins on Tuesday. Liftoff is set for Friday at 11:26 EDT (16:26 GMT) before an estimated crowd of up to one million people.

Commander Christopher Ferguson and his crew received small American flags as launch director Mike Leinbach greeted them out on the runway. The four needed just two training jets for the flight from their training base in Houston.

"This is a day that's decidedly American, a day where we kind of reflect on our independence and all the wonderful things that we really have as a part of being United States of America," said Ferguson, a retired Navy captain.

"It's wonderful that you've all came out to join us," he told the approximately 65 photographers and other journalists who swarmed the runway. He urged them to go and enjoy some barbecue, fireworks and apple pie.

Crowds


Altogether, about 2 500 members of the news media have requested credentials to cover the launch. As of Monday, the estimated total crowd count also had risen: Nasa spokesperson Allard Beutel said between 750 000 and one million people now are expected to jam the area to witness the end to shuttle history.

That's considerably more than the crowds that showed up for Discovery's last liftoff in February and Endeavour's in May.

The Endeavour send-off even attracted US President Barack Obama and his entire family, but a launch delay in late April had him mingling instead with the shuttle crew and Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the wounded wife of commander Mark Kelly.

A busy 12-day flight lies ahead, Ferguson said, making note of the abridged crew. Atlantis will make a supply run to the International Space Station, before joining Discovery and Endeavour in retirement.

"When it's all over... we'll be very proud to put the right-hand bookend on the space shuttle programme," he said.

"We're so very proud to be here sharing our nation's birthday with you all and the folks here at Kennedy, and we just want to honour the entire Kennedy team that has worked on these magnificent machines over the last 30-plus years," added co-pilot Douglas Hurley.

Nasa hasn't launched so few shuttle astronauts since mission No 6 in 1983. That's because there are no more shuttles left to retrieve them from the space station in the event of serious launch damage to Atlantis; the shuttle crew would have to be rescued by Russia's much smaller Soyuz capsules.

Significance


Americans will continue to hitch rides aboard Soyuz spacecraft to and from the space station, until private companies are able to launch their own spacecraft with crews. That's at least three to five years away.

The Obama administration wants Nasa to focus on expeditions to an asteroid and Mars, instead of repeated trips to low-Earth orbit. There's not enough money to do both, shuttle programme manager John Shannon told reporters last week.

"We're sacrificing the shuttle to enable us to be able to take that next step," Shannon said. "If we were going to retire the shuttle, this is the time to do it," he said, noting that the space station is now completed and in good shape.

Despite the overriding significance of this last shuttle flight, astronaut Rex Walheim delighted in the little things on Monday.

"It's such a pleasure to come down here when you have a rocket on the pad and it's got your stuff loaded on it," he said with a wide grin.

The three men - all with military backgrounds - are joined on the crew by Sandra Magnus, a civilian scientist. Each has flown in space before.
- AP
Read more on:    nasa  |  space
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

LOL! Best outdoor girl fails

It’s not only guys who have FAIL moments! Here are some of the funniest outdoor fails where girls are the victims!

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

90-year-old's incredible travels
10 facts about swimming you didn't know
Halloween night run
Exciting new zipline for Cape Town!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R2100 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Hot offer: Up to 50% off irons

Save up to 50% on all Philips irons. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There may be some tension that is caused through social conflicts -- personal interests versus obligations. You may feel an...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.