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Lift Off!

July 8th, 2011

photo credit: NASA

Lift Off!

You have until July 10 to submit your questions about the final shuttle launch, or space, in the comment box below. NASA’s Leland Melvin is taking 20 Here There Everywhere readers’ questions! Don’t forget to include your first name, age, and state/country.

July 8, 2011 — The space shuttle Atlantis blasted into space from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at around 11:30 a.m. today, marking the last space shuttle to ever go into space. An estimated 1 million people turned out to watch the four astronauts lift-off for their 12-day mission .

Commander Chris Ferguson , Pilot Douglas Hurley , and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim are taking a year’s worth of supplies to astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) and will be performing experiments. After this mission, astronauts traveling to and from the ISS will take the Soyuz capsules .

Rainy weather threatened to delay the launch as lightning struck nearby. And just when it seemed like everything was a go, the countdown clock stopped 31 seconds before launch, though seemingly for technical reasons. At lift-off, the announcer exclaimed that Atlantis’s departure was the “start of a sentimental journey into history”.

Though it may be years before another manned space flight, this final mission doesn’t mean the end of the space program. The space shuttles don’t go into deep space but rather stay in orbit around Earth. And after 135 missions and clocking over 500 million miles between the five shuttles, NASA will be setting its sights farther out in space.

While NASA has performed some amazing science in space, … the science behind getting a shuttle off the ground to hit 26 times the speed of sound in just 8 minutes is pretty cool in its own right.

You can watch NASA’s brief animated video on the science behind launching a space shuttle by clicking here.

To hear members of the space shuttle team, including astronauts, describe a launch as a feeling like no other, click here.

To watch NASA’s half-hour retrospective on the shuttle program, click here (it’s really good).

Can’t wait for the years of schooling and rigorous training?  Click here to learn how to launch your own alkaseltzer rocket (just please do it with an adult for safety’s sake). Or watch here:

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