The misadventures of Commander Merlin and the crew of RV-103
Tuesday July 17th 2018

05-26-10 Space Shuttle Atlantis Comes Home for the Last Time?

Atlantis on her final landing at KSC. Credit Larry D. Tanner

Space Shuttle Atlantis arrived home for the last time today.  After a picture perfect mission to the ISS, Atlantis safely arrived at the KSC Shuttle Landing Facility and was put to bed in OPF 1.  Well done OPF 1 and the United Space Alliance TPS crew!

Atlantis returning to OPF 1 for the last time. Credit Darlene Dube

Ken Ham, the Commander of Atlantis’s last flight said, “Walking around Atlantis after the flight I realized I probably just did the most fun and amazing thing I’ll do in my life.”  I think the contract workers at KSC can agree with you 100% Commander Ham.

During Shuttle Atlantis mission, amateur astrophotographer Thierry Legault took this picture of Shuttle Atlantis nearing the ISS for docking with the Sun in the background.

Credit Thierry Legault

During re-entry, astronaut Soichi Noguchi on the ISS took this picture from above of Atlantis as she did her fiery descent through the atmosphere over the Pacific.

ISS astronaut Soichi Noguchi captured Atlantis as that fireball, streaking though atmosphere, just as dawn approached. "Dawn, and Space Shuttle re-entered atmosphere over Pacific Ocean. 32 years of service, 32nd beautiful landing. Forever, Atlantis!"

Atlantis was the first Space Shuttle launch I had witnessed when I first moved to Florida in 1996.  I was working at the local hospital on night shift and was very excited about seeing the upcoming launch.  About 10 minutes before launch, we got very busy on the floor with numerous patients calling for assistance and it looked like I was going to miss seeing the launch.

I was in a patient’s room assisting her when nurses Diane and Tracy came rushing in.  They brought another nurse to take over my task and rushed me to another room that overlooked the space center just in time to see the launch pad glow brightly like the sun.  The whole area lit up into daylight and I watched in stunned amazement as Atlantis leaped off the pad on a tail of fire towards the heavens.  I laid my fingers lightly on the window and could feel the vibrations from the launch though we were about 30 miles away.  I have got to see many launches after that, including 5 ½ years worth of launches only 3 miles from the pad, but that first launch was the best and one of the most memorable to me.

Well done Atlantis and thank you for your service over these last 30 plus years.

STS 132

Update:  Atlantis has been given one more mission and the bittersweet privilege to be the very last Space Shuttle and American manned mission.  She will launch in July of 2011.  Don’t miss it for it will probably be the very last time you will see an American astronaut fly on an American ship for at least 10 years or more.

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