After almost 25 years in service, at 7.20pm [BST] tonight Nasa’s Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to lift-off from Kennedy Space Center on its last ever flight – Mission STS-132. There’s Nasa’s launch blog and the usual online NasaTV coverage.
Only two more missions remain in the Space Shuttle programme.
Adds Via NASAtelevision
And perhaps I should have said First Last Flight… As the BBC’s Spaceman notes
As I’ve already discussed in this blog, there is some talk in the US as to whether having gone to the trouble of prepping Atlantis in this way, Nasa should just fly it out anyway.
The extra spares and supplies would be gratefully received at the station and were the ship to sustain damage itself – a holed wing on lift-off, for example – the small crew (just four individuals) could return to Earth in Soyuz capsules.
That’s a decision for later in the year. President Obama still has to convince Congress that his new strategy for space exploration is the correct one and that the shuttle fleet should be stood down as planned.
Some politicians persist in trying to get orbiter operations extended, so nothing can yet be said to be a done deal.