Atlantis completes shuttle era's final mission
Space Shuttle Atlantis lands for the final time at NASA's
Kennedy Space Center, Fla. (NASA photo)
Atlantis and its crew of four astronauts arrived safely at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., at 5:57 a.m. Eastern time Thursday. The landing brings to an end the final mission of what industry experts call a technological marvel that has lasted more than 30 years -- the Space Shuttle program.
"More than any other system, the shuttle has made human access to low Earth orbit routine," said Brewster Shaw, vice president and general manager of Space Exploration. "It has provided great value to the United States and much of the world. While we will miss the shuttle and her extensive capabilities, other opportunities in human space flight await us. Boeing employees compiled an excellent record of execution on a program that has captured America’s imagination for more than 30 years."
Boeing’s Checkout, Assembly and Payload Processing Services team prepared the mission’s payload, including the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. The MPLM took supplies and spare parts designed to sustain International Space Station operations for several years.
Boeing also developed and stowed the upgraded waste-treatment tanks called the Advanced Recycle Filter Tank Assembly. The space station's current tanks have to be returned to Earth regularly for refurbishment. The new AFRTA tanks do not require refurbishment and can be emptied by the crew.
Atlantis was the fourth orbiter to join NASA's fleet. Since its inaugural voyage in October of 1985, it has deployed 14 satellites, docked with the Mir space station seven times and docked with the ISS 12 times. Atlantis also flew the last Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission on STS-125.
The shuttle will be transported to the Orbiter Processing Facility to be decommissioned and then will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex.
"Working on the space shuttle program has been one of the most incredible, inspiring jobs I could have ever asked for," said Rachel Wiedemann, a Boeing aerothermal engineer. "It allowed me to play a fulfilling role in a part of American culture that has brought us improvements in communication, technology, medicine and space exploration. The shuttle program has also provided me with the opportunity to meet truly wonderful people and work on a unique and iconic piece of history."
Boeing is a major subcontractor to United Space Alliance, NASA’s prime contractor for space shuttle operations. Under this contract, Boeing provides NASA and USA with sustaining engineering, engineering support to operations -- including launch -- and overall shuttle systems, integration and payload integration services. Boeing is the designer and manufacturer of the orbiters.
By Susan Wells