The shuttle Atlantis and her crew of four are soon to descend to Earth for the very last time. Not only bringing to a close its 13 day mission taking supplies to the ISS, but drawing the curtain on a program that has lasted 30 years. All three remaining orbiters in the NASA space shuttle fleet are being decommissioned and moved for permanent display in museums.
Touchdown of Atlantis will be a sight never to be witnessed again live, but thankfully (as with other recent shuttle landings!) we’ve got NASA TV below which will cover the descent from de-orbit burn to wheel-stop (on the runway at Kennedy Space Center), and beyond!
Earlier today the Mission Management Team cleared Atlantis’ heat shield for re-entry when full checks performed using the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (after undocking from the ISS) showed no causes for concern.
After a revision to the earlier schedule, Atlantis has been given two opportunities to land, the first timed at 05:56 EDT (09:56 GMT/ 10:56 BST) when weather forecasters expect conditions to be perfect, and a second attempt possibility at 07:32 EDT (11:32 GMT/ 12:32 BST). NASA officials are resisting calls to delay landing to the second opportunity, even though keen observers of the shuttle would prefer the better light enabling them to see the spacecraft approaching over Florida’s “Space Coast“.
The shuttle program has meant so much to so many people, from the engineers and technicians who have poured their heart and soul into building the very best machine possible, to small children staring open mouthed in awe and wonder at one of the finest examples of what humankind can achieve.
God speed Atlantis, we will never forget the fantastic sights the space shuttles have helped us see, the advances you helped us make, and the triumphs and tragedies we shared along the way.
See you on the runway at KSC soon. It’s gonna be emotional.
Current NASA TV Schedule:
Payload bay door closing 02:09 EDT (06:09 GMT/ 07:09 BST)
De-orbit burn 1st opportunity 04:49 EDT (08:49 GMT/ 09:49 BST)
KSC landing 1st opportunity 05:56 EDT (09:56 GMT/ 10:56 BST)
*De-orbit burn 2nd opportunity 06:25 EDT (10:25 GMT/ 11:25 BST)
*KSC landing 2nd opportunity 07:32 EDT (11:32 GMT/ 12:32 BST)
*Should NASA switch to the second landing opportunity timings, we’ll update you on Twitter and on this blog (they will also announce any changes on NASA TV)
To watch NASA TV direct click here
You can also follow Atlantis through Google Earth