Little Bits of History

The End

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 8, 2014
Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off

July 8, 2011: The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off. She was named after RV Atlantis, a two-masted sailing research ship of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution from 1930 to 1966. The space shuttle’s designation is OV-104. Rockwell International received the contract for building Atlantis on January 29, 1979. Assembly took from March 30, 1980 until April 10, 1984. The shuttle arrived at Kennedy Space Center on April 13 and her maiden flight began on October 3 with a return to Earth on October 7.

Over the years, Atlantis flew 33 missions and transported 207 crew members into space. She spent 306 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes, and 43 seconds in space while completing 4,848 orbits around Mother Earth. During the missions, fourteen satellites were deployed. Atlantis docked with the MIR space station seven times and the ISS twelve times. Atlantis flew only twice before the Challenger disaster temporarily grounded all shuttles. Atlantis also was the shuttle with the shortest turnaround time with her second mission taking off in November 1985, only 50 days after her inaugural flight.

The Space Shuttle program lasted from 1972 to 2011 and encompassed 135 flights. Columbia was NASA’s first fully functional orbiter and was finally ready for launch on April 12, 1981, the 20th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s famous trip into space. The Challenger, Discovery, and Endeavour were the other three ships involved in the program. It was estimated that the program would cost $9.45 billion in development and recurring costs as well as $9.3 million per launch ($45 billion and $57 million respectively in today’s currency). The actual total cost of the entire program, adjusted for inflation, was $196 billion. To be fair, the entire program lasted much longer than expected.

Originally envisioned as a 15-year program, flights took place for thirty years after the original development proved successful. Even the loss of two ships and fourteen lives did not cause the program’s demise. It was, however, time to retire the fleet. Discovery was the first to retire after completing her final mission on March 9, 2011. Endeavour was next when the last mission ended on June 1. Atlantis was supposed to be retired first, but with further extension of the program, two more flights were added. When she landed on July 21, the program was officially over. After traveling almost 126,000,000 miles (more than 525 times the distance from Earth to the Moon), the shuttle retired to the Kennedy Space Center where she is proudly displayed in the Visitor Complex in Florida – a great place to retire.

Well, with so many space shuttle missions that we’ve done, I think it’s just sort of natural that each one hasn’t necessarily gotten the attention that the early ones did. – Ellen Ochoa

NASA asked me to create meals for the space shuttle. Thai chicken was the favorite. I flew in a fake space shuttle, but I have no desire to go into space after seeing the toilet. – Rachael Ray

The launch of a space shuttle can still make you weep with amazement and wonder, if you happen to be watching it. – Hanna Rosin

The space shuttle has been a fantastic vehicle. It is unlike any other thing that we’ve ever built. Its capabilities have carried several hundred people into space. – Robert Crippen

Also on this day: The Wall Street Journal – In 1889, The Wall Street Journal begins publication.
Con Man – In 1898, Soapy Smith was gunned down.
Bear Market – In 1932, the markets hit their lowest point during the Great Depression.
Our Lady of Kazan – In 1579, an iconic painting was discovered.

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