US shuttle blasts off on final trip

Atlantis heads for space station as Nasa begins to wind down shuttle missions.

    After 32 missions Atlantis is set to be retired to a museum following its return to Earth [AFP]

    Mike Leinbach, the launch director, said: "On behalf of all the manufacturing, processing and flight launch teams who worked on Atlantis since March of 1980, we wish you good luck and godspeed have a little fun up there."

    After this mission, only two more shuttle launches remain - one in September for Discovery and the final blast off for Endeavour in November.

    The 32nd and final voyage for Atlantis, first launched in 1985, will take six astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), delivering an integrated cargo carrier and a Russian-built mini research module.

    Atlantis will be retired upon its safe return home after a 25-year career, a poignant moment for Nasa as the agency begins a countdown towards the end of an era in human spaceflight.

    "Twelve days, three (spacewalks), tons of robotics. We are putting on spares that make us feel good about the long-term sustainability of the ISS, replacing batteries that have been up there for a while, and docking a Russian-built ISS module," said  John Shannon, the space shuttle programme manager.

    "This flight has a little bit of everything, and it's been a great preparation for the team."

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Take a tour through divided Jerusalem

    Interactive: Take a tour through divided Jerusalem

    Take a tour through East and West Jerusalem to see the difference in quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians.

    Stories from the sex trade

    Stories from the sex trade

    Dutch sex workers, pimps and johns share their stories.

    Inside the world of India's booming fertility industry

    Inside the world of India's booming fertility industry

    As the stigma associated with being childless persists, some elderly women in India risk it all to become mothers.