Cape Canaveral, Fla. –

Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-135 rockets into space and history four minutes late, bringing an end to the 30 years of space shuttle launches, the first shuttle went up in 1981. The shuttle went up from launch pad 39A.

On board were Commander Christopher Ferguson, his third space flight; Pilot Douglas Hurley, his second space flight; Mission Specialist Sandra Magnus, her third space flight; Mission Specialist Rex Walheim, his third spaceflight, and the crews’ engineer.

The mission will last 12 days with a projected return on July 20th, 2011 at 7:06 am Eastern Time. The shuttle will orbit 122 nautical miles above the earth, carrying only 4 crew members instead of the normal 6 because there is no standby shuttle and crew that could launch to help a rescue in space. Instead, if a problem develops, the crew will take refuge in the International Space Station and return to earth one at a time over the course of a year. As a side benefit, having fewer crew members allows the shuttle to maximize the cargo capacity.

For techies:

Mass:
Total liftoff weight: 4,521,143 pounds (2,050,756 kg)
Orbiter liftoff weight: 266,090 pounds (120,700 kg)
Orbiter landing weight: 226,375 pounds (102,682 kg)
Payload weight: 28,418 pounds (12,890 kg)
Perigee: TBD
Apogee: TBD
Inclination: 51.6°
Period: 91 minutes
The mission marks:

166th (and the final currently planned) NASA manned space flight
135th shuttle mission since STS-1
33rd flight of Atlantis
3rd shuttle flight in 2011
A 37th shuttle mission to the ISS
110th post-Challenger mission
22nd post-Columbia mission

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