The Last Voyage Of Space Shuttle Atlantis – LIVE STREAM

On November 2, 2012 by Jonathan Bright

…and 8 Cool Facts About Space Shuttle Atlantis

Streaming Live by UstreamIt might not be the same pomp and ceremony that greeted sister shuttle Endeavour last week in Los Angeles, but after 27 years’ service Space Shuttle Atlantis now too makes its final voyage. Currently Twitter and Facebook are alight with well wishers, photos and fond memories as it makes its painstakingly slow 10-mile hike across Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A 76-wheel platform currently carries the 70-tonne, 37-metre-long space shuttle behemoth at just 2 mph, as a typical Floridian sunrise provides the frame of backlight.

Moving Space Shuttle Atlantis at NASA

Moving Space Shuttle Atlantis at NASA Kennedy Space Center (Photo: NASA)


The barrage of commentary from around the world is of both pride and sadness in equal measure, just as when we reported on Space Shuttle Discovery’s swansong fly-by over Washington. We are so used to seeing the unassuming panda face of Atlantis stare towards the stars with a modest and professional determination. And yet now that same expression seems forlorn as it creeps through Cape Canaveral from Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

Vehicle Assembly at NASA Kennedy

Space Shuttle Atlantis left the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center


Though moving this iconic vehicle is quite the ordeal, and the team behind its logistics have had to uproot over 200 streetlights, signals and road signs to let her pass.

Tim Macy, Director of Project Development and Construction for Delaware North, which operates the visitor complex told USA Today: “It’s only a priceless artefact driving 9.8 miles and it weighs 164,000 pounds. Other than that, no pressure at all! Only the eyes of the country, and the world, and everybody at NASA are watching us.”

NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis

Space Shuttle Atlantis is transported on a 76-wheel flatbed (Photo: NASA)


Space Shuttle Atlantis’ cavalcade will pass the headquarters of Kennedy for a salute, and then onwards to the visitor complex by about 6.30 pm EDT (2230 GMT). The 8,361-square meter complex is missing one of its walls, allowing Atlantis to just sidle on in.

After the wall is reconstructed and the complex finished, the space shuttle will be made viewable to the public, though word is tickets may reach up to $90 a pop.

Officially known as OV-104, Space Shuttle Atlantis the fourth space-ready shuttle to be developed NASA and the last to go into orbit was actually its biggest workhorse, flying more crew and equipment off of the Earth’s surface than any other NASA spaceship. It was named after the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts’ research vessel that studied marine life from two onboard labs during the period from 1930 to 1966. The vessel was itself of a pioneering breed, being the first to map the ocean floor using electronic sound generators.

Far from a mere dogsbody Space Shuttle Atlantis, was a shuttle of firsts, of lasts and, like its namesake, of major discoveries.

8 Cool Facts about Space Shuttle Atlantis:

- It was the first to dock with Russian space station Mir, although interestingly is the only space shuttle that does not have a shuttle-to-station power connection. Essentially it lacked the extension cord to plug it in whilst in orbit, and could only fly for a maximum of a fortnight.

- From Space Shuttle Atlantis NASA captured the first close up images of an asteroid hitting a planet – namely when the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet smashed into Jupiter in 1994.

- Atlantis delivered former Chief Scientist of NASA Dr Shannon Lucid for her record-breaking endurance for a single mission in space. Space Shuttle Atlantis chauffeured her home on September 26, 1996, after Dr Lucid managed to travel 75.2 million miles in 188 days, 4 hours and 14 seconds. Expedition 14 Flight Engineer Suni Williams in fact surpassed this record in 2007. Dr Lucid retired from NASA in January this year.

Dr Shannon Lucid on Mir after Space Shuttle Atlantis Mission

Dr Shannon Lucid reads the Mir instruction manual


- As the last space shuttle to visit the Hubble Space Telescope, crew from the Space Shuttle Atlantis installed the Wide Field Camera 3 and Cosmic Origins spectrograph. This was the last service to the telescope before being sent on a voyage deep into space. The Wide Field Camera 3 is so-called because of a remarkable ability to capture a wide range of colours and wavelengths from ultraviolet to near infrared.

Space Shuttle Atlantis delivered Wide Field Camera 3

Grand star-forming region in R136 in NGC 2070 (Wide Field Camera 3, delivered to Hubble By Space Shuttle Atlantis, mapped the visible, ultraviolet and infrared parts) (photo: NASA)


- We have Atlantis partly to thank for knowing what we do about our solar system. In 1989, the vessel launched the Magellan spacecraft, which has mapped 98% of the surface of Venus, and the Galileo interplanetary probe towards Jupiter. Galileo reached Jupiter in 1995. In April 1991, Space Shuttle Atlantis launched the second of NASA’s ‘Great Observatories’ – the Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO), an X-ray and gamma-ray-detecting set of space telescopes.

- In its lifetime, Space Shuttle Atlantis has covered more distance than there is between the Earth and the Sun.

- In the eight-minute period after launch, Space Shuttle Atlantis accelerated to more than 28,000 kph. That’s nine times the speed of a rifle bullet.

Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Space Shuttle Atlantis Launches from Kennedy Space Center

- The first ever tweet from space came from aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis. As @Astro_Mike, astronaut Michael J Massimino wrote on May 11, 2009: “From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!”

A momentously bittersweet occasion, one can only hope that people who come to pay their respects continue to be bowled over by this feat of human endeavour.

So long Atlantis, you did us proud.