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May 14, 2010

First of the last Space Shuttle launches

First launched twenty-five years ago in October of 1985, NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for its 32nd and final launch this afternoon (at 2:20pm ET). This launch - one of only three remaining missions left in NASA's Shuttle program - will deliver an Integrated Cargo Carrier and a Russian-built Mini Research Module to the International Space Station. Collected here are a series of photographs of Atlantis' recent activity, as it descended from orbit last November, landed, and was processed and prepped for today's final launch. (42 photos total)

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Atlantis is outlined by spotlights at the Vehicle Assembly Building as it rolls along the crawlerway to Launch Pad 39A. Atlantis' first motion on its 3.4-mile trip was at 11:31 p.m. EDT April 21. The shuttle was secured on the pad at 6:03 a.m. April 22. (NASA/Amanda Diller)

Late last year, near the end of Atlantis' previous expedition, a member of the Expedition 21 crew aboard the International Space Station photographed this view of Atlantis soon after the shuttle and station began their post-undocking relative separation, and the shuttle headed toward re-entry. (NASA) #

The space shuttle Atlantis glides towards a landing on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 33 Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, in Cape Canaveral, Florida The shuttle completed an 11-day mission to the international space station. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) #

With its drag chute unfurled, space shuttle Atlantis touches down on Runway 33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida after 11 days in space, completing the 4.5-million mile STS-129 mission on orbit 171. In the background are the 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building and a crane being used to construct a new mobile launcher to support the Constellation Program's Ares I rocket. (NASA/Tim Terry) #

STS-129 Commander Charles Hobaugh reaches out to the nose of the space shuttle Atlantis after the orbiter landed safely on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 33 Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (AP Photo/Scott Audette, Pool) #

Soon after landing, Atlantis was moved to the Orbiter Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Here, in Bay 1, one of three main engines has been removed using a specially designed Hyster engine lift. Inspection and maintenance of each main engine is standard procedure following a shuttle mission. (NASA/Glenn Benson) #

In Orbiter Processing Facility 1, United Space Alliance technicians complete the inspection of window #8, removed from the top of space shuttle Atlantis' crew module. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #

In Orbiter Processing Facility 1, technicians prepare to install the orbiter boom sensor system, or OBSS, into space shuttle Atlantis' payload bay. The OBSS' inspection boom assembly, or IBA, is removed from the arm every other processing flow for a detailed inspection. After five consecutive flights, all IBA internal components are submitted to a thorough electrical checkout in the Remote Manipulator System Lab. The 50-foot-long OBSS attaches to the end of the shuttle's robotic arm and supports the cameras and laser systems used to inspect the shuttle's thermal protection system while in space. (NASA/Jim Grossmann) #

In the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility, a space shuttle main engine is lifted from its work stand toward a transporter for its move to Orbiter Processing Facility-1, the hangar in which space shuttle Atlantis is being processed for its upcoming STS-132 mission. A main engine is 14 feet long, weighs approximately 7,000 pounds, and is 7.5 feet in diameter at the end of the nozzle. (NASA/Troy Cryder) #

In Orbiter Processing Facility-1, workers guide a space shuttle main engine into position for installation on space shuttle Atlantis for its upcoming STS-132 mission. (NASA/Troy Cryder #

In Orbiter Processing Facility-1 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, two of three space shuttle main engines have been installed on space shuttle Atlantis for its upcoming STS-132 mission. (NASA/Troy Cryder) #

United Space Alliance senior aerospace inspector Ray Cox verifies that no foreign object debris or contamination was introduced inside the window cavity conditioning system manifold before it is installed on space shuttle Atlantis. Obstructions or contamination could cause damage to the system's filters and check valves or change the airflow in the system. The manifold stabilizes the pressure between the shuttle's window panes during ascent and descent and prevents condensation from forming on them during flight. Atlantis is being prepared for its upcoming STS-132 mission. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

The Pegasus barge carrying External Tank-136 arrives near the turn basin at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans. ET-136 will be used to launch space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-132 mission to the International Space Station. (NASA/Rusty Backer) #

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, External Tank-136 emerges from the Pegasus barge docked in the turn basin near the Vehicle Assembly Building. (NASA/Troy Cryder) #

In the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, an overhead crane lifts the external fuel tank for space shuttle Atlantis' STS-132 mission, from its test cell. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #

In Orbiter Processing Facility-1 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, members of space shuttle Atlantis' STS-132 crew participate in training activities during the Crew Equipment Interface Test, or CEIT, for their mission. Here, Commander Ken Ham familiarizes himself with the layout of the shuttle's cockpit. CEIT provides the crew with hands-on training and observation of shuttle and flight hardware. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

A media event was hosted by NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, to showcase the Russian-built Mini-Research Module-1, or MRM-1, in the Astrotech payload processing facility at Port Canaveral, Florida. Supplies and other cargo have already been installed into the MRM-1. The module is on display for the media before its transport to the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The six-member crew of space shuttle Atlantis' STS-132 mission will deliver an Integrated Cargo Carrier and the MRM-1, known as Rassvet, to the International Space Station. The second in a series of new pressurized components for Russia, MRM-1 will be permanently attached to the Earth-facing port of the Zarya control module. Rassvet, which translates to "dawn," will be used for cargo storage and will provide an additional docking port to the station. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidaikis) #

At the Astrotech payload processing facility at Port Canaveral in Florida, Sergey Kireevichev, right, of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, instructs members of the STS-132 crew on the design and operation of the docking mechanism for the Mini-Research Module during their crew equipment interface test, or CEIT. From left in the blue flight suits are Mission Specialist Piers Sellers, Commander Ken Ham, and Mission Specialists Michael Good and Garrett Reisman. (NASA/Troy Cryder) #

Space shuttle Atlantis' rear landing gears are extended during processing of the shuttle. Changes to the thermal protection system tiles on the periphery of the landing gear doors necessitate that the gears be extended to ensure the doors open properly without obstruction. (NASA/Gianni Woods) #

Astronauts Michael Good (foreground) and Garrett Reisman, both STS-132 mission specialists, use virtual reality hardware in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center on January 28th, 2010, to rehearse some of their duties on the upcoming mission to the International Space Station. This type of virtual reality training allows the astronauts to wear a helmet and special gloves while looking at computer displays simulating actual movements around the various locations on the station hardware with which they will be working. (NASA) #

In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a Japan Manned Space Systems Corp. scientist prepares the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's ferulate formation experiment for its flight to the International Space Station aboard the STS-132 mission. Expedition crew members aboard the station will test whether microgravity modifies ferulic acid in rice seedlings, thereby decreasing the mechanical strength of cell walls. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #

Astronaut Mike Good, STS-132 mission specialist, uses an extravehicular activity (EVA) camera during a spacewalk training session in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) near NASA's Johnson Space Center on September 30th 2009. (NASA) #

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Atlantis approaches the Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, on its move from Orbiter Processing Facility-1 where it was processed for its upcoming STS-132 mission. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #

In the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, space shuttle Atlantis is lifted above its transporter during its move from the transfer aisle to High Bay-1. In the bay, Atlantis will be attached to its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters in preparation for the upcoming STS-132 mission. (NASA/Cory Huston) #

Space shuttle Atlantis is lowered alongside its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters in High Bay-1 of NASA's massive Vehicle Assembly Building. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #

At the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, STS-132 Commander Ken Ham gets settled in the cockpit of a Shuttle Training Aircraft to practice touch-and-go landings. The Shuttle Training Aircraft is a Gulfstream II jet, modified to handle like the space shuttle. (NASA/Troy Cryder) #

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, STS-132 Pilot Tony Antonelli takes his instructor, Battalion Chief David Seymour, at left, for a ride in an M-113 armored personnel carrier during driving practice. Also along for the ride is Mission Specialist Steve Bowen. An M-113 is kept at the foot of the launch pad in case an emergency egress from the vicinity of the pad is needed. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

NASA astronaut Tony Antonelli, STS-132 pilot, attired in a training version of his shuttle launch and entry suit, is pictured during an ingress/egress training session in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center on April 8th, 2010. (NASA) #

Water stands on the crawlerway outside the 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where space shuttle Atlantis awaits its move to Launch Pad 39A. Thunderstorms that passed over the center around 4 a.m. made the crawlerway too wet for the massive crawler-transporter to carry Atlantis the 3.4 miles from the VAB to the pad. (NASA/Kim Shiflett) #

A crawler-transporter begins to roll space shuttle Atlantis out of High Bay 1 on its 3.4-mile journey to Launch Pad 39A. (NASA/Amanda Diller) #

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the six-million-pound crawler-transporter is illuminated as it carries space shuttle Atlantis from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A. (NASA/Amanda Diller) #

At Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, work begins to install the newly arrived space shuttle Atlantis on the pad. (NASA/Amanda Diller ) #

The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean near Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Space shuttle Atlantis was transferred from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the pad overnight for its upcoming launch. (NASA/Jack Pfaller) #

Space Shuttle Atlantis astronauts fly over the shuttle landing facility in their T-38 jets at Kennedy Space Center, May 10, 2010 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Atlantis crew were preparing for their launch, scheduled for launch May 14, to the International Space Station. (Matt Stroshane/Getty Images) #

A family of Osprey in their nest outside the NASA Kennedy Space Center Vehicle Assembly Building in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Thursday, May 13, 2010. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls) #

A worker carries a hose from from the top of the space shuttle Atlantis Thursday, May 13, 2010, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (AP Photo/Terry Renna) #

Space Shuttle Atlantis sits on launch pad 39-a in preparation for launch later today from Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station May 14, 2010 in Cape Canaveral. (Matt Stroshane/Getty Images) #

Space Shuttle Atlantis astronauts pose for a photo in front of their transport vehicle May 14, 2010 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)#

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off of launch pad 39-a at Kennedy Space Center for its final scheduled launch on May 14, 2010, in Cape Canaveral. Atlantis is scheduled for a 13-day mission to the International Space Station. (Eliot Schechter/Getty Images) #

The space shuttle Atlantis lifts off for the last time Friday, May 14, 2010, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) #

The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off May 14, 2010 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. With more than 40,000 spectators watching, the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off Friday on its final journey. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Photographers take images as the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off May 14, 2010 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images) #

 
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