The first human space shuttle, STS-1 Columbia, launched into space in 1981. Did you watch it?
Now, where will you watch the very last space shuttle mission, as STS-135 Atlantis lifts off this Friday at 8:26 a.m.?
It's a chance to see history. After Atlantis, NASA will retire its space shuttle program. The space exploration program will continue, as the agency attempts to get humans to Mars, but now the International Space Station will serve as the centerpiece, as astronauts can live aboard 365 days a year.
But there's nothing like the space shuttle count down: The anticipation that builds when the flames come out of the rocket boosters and the lift off.
When and Where to Watch
Atlantis is scheduled to blast off at 8:26 a.m. PDT on Friday, but the time and date may change. As of Wednesday evening, the weather forecast presented a challenge, with a tropical storm in the Caribbean that could make it a 70-80 percent chance that conditions won't be right for take-off.
With real-time data from Mission Control, check out Google Earth and see the shuttle icon move across the map on your computer.
Locally, some lucky few will have the chance to watch from NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View. However, you can turn on any morning news program, sit in your pajamas and be able to see it. Also, don't forget to wake up the kids so that they can watch, too!
Where is it?
The shuttle takes off from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, north-northwest of Cape Canaveral, FL. However, staff and scientists from our local NASA Ames have headed down to Florida for the launch. Follow the NASA Ames blog!
Finally, just in case you have an office trivia game this week, here are some Atlantis Fun Facts:
- Atlantis has made 33 space flights. Its maiden flight was on Oct. 3, 1985.
- The shuttle was named for an oceanic research vessel that sailed off the coast of Massachusetts between the 1930s and 1960s.
- This flight has the smallest crew (four) since STS-6 Challenger in April 1983.
- Atlantis has traveled a total of 120,650,907 miles.
- It has spent a total of 293 days, 18 hours, 29 minutes, 37 seconds in space.
- It has made a total of 4,648 orbits.
- A total of 203 crew members have flown on Atlantis.
- It was the first shuttle to dock on the Russian Space Station Mir in with STS-71 in 1995.
- The first iPhone to travel to space will hitch a ride on the Atlantis.