Shuttle Atlantis lifts off for final time

July 8th, 2011 - 10:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 8 (IANS) The space shuttle Atlantis Friday lifted off on the final mission of US’s 30-year space-shuttle programme, CNN reported.

The four-member crew blasted off on a 12-day mission just before 11:30 a.m. The four — all shuttle veterans — are on their way to deliver supplies to the International Space Station, the broadcaster said.

The possibility of storms had raised doubt whether the launch would take place as planned, but NASA gave the shuttle a “go” for launch a few minutes before liftoff.

Thousands of people, including some who came to the Kennedy Space Centre three decades ago for the first launch, were gathered to watch.

One onlooker flew in with a friend Thursday from New York. Unable to find a hotel, the men went to a Walmart and picked up a tent, air mattresses and some tortilla chips and camped out on a nearby spit of land to wait for the launch, the CNN said.

Violent storms Thursday prompted NASA teams to carry out checks on the shuttle, which NASA said escaped damage from two nearby lightning strikes.

President Richard Nixon commissioned the space shuttle programme in 1972, three years after the Apollo programme put the man on the moon.

The first shuttle, Columbia, blasted off in April 1981. Since then, space shuttle crews have fixed satellites, performed scientific studies, and ferried materials and people to International Space Station Alpha, a football field-sized construction project in orbit.

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