Space Shuttle Atlantis Final Mission Extended by One Day
Atlantis launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 11.29 a.m. EDT on Friday to begin a mission to the ISS, initially scheduled for 12 days. The STS-135 mission will be the Space Shuttle Program’s last ever flight, making the current flight a historic event.
Capsule Communicator Megan McArthur notified Atlantis Commander Chris Ferguson on Monday afternoon that the Mission Management Team had decided to extend the STS-135 mission by one day. This will allow the crew to help unpack items brought to the ISS, leaving it in a better shape.
NASA said Atlantis is now scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 21 at 5.56 a.m. EDT, a unique night landing. It will also coincide with the 50th anniversary of America’s second spaceflight, Mercury-Redstone 4.
Also on Monday, as crew members Mike Fossum and Ron Garan prepared for their Tuesday spacewalk, NASA decided that a focused inspection of the shuttle heat shield is not required.
During the rest of their 13-day mission, Atlantis and its crew will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with supplies and spare parts to sustain ISS space station operations after the space shuttles are retired. The mission will also fly the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel satellites in space.
The crew will further return an ammonia pump that recently failed on the space station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft. “This is a very critical mission for station resupply,” NASA Space Shuttle Program Launch Integration Manager and chairman of the pre-mission Mission Management Team Mike Moses said earlier.
STS-135 is the 135th shuttle mission, Atlantis’ 33rd flight, and the last scheduled flight of the Space Shuttle Program which began with STS-1 in April 1981 with the launch of the space shuttle Columbia.
After the end of the Space Shuttle Program, NASA will put its focus on deep space missions with the to-be-built, heavy-lift Space Launch System which will carry its astronauts out of low Earth orbit. Future missions will include an unmanned mission to an asteroid in 2016 and eventually to Mars.