Space Shuttle Atlantis leave earth for the last time.


There is just something about a space shuttle launch. Whether it is the brute force, the elegant lines, the plume trail that streaks across the sky after lift off, or the unease that another Challenger or Columbia disaster lurks around every ascent to space or return to earth; every space shuttle launch is just an awe inspiring event.

The sheer physics involved to lift over a 100 000 kg vertically towards space and accelerate to Mach 27 is simply mind boggling. With three main engines, each producing 394 000 lbs of thrust as well as two solid rocket boosters, each producing 2,8 million lbs of thrust; it comes at a hefty price … to the tune of an estimated $1,5 billion a mission.

In the context of the earlier Apollo missions to the moon, continuous low orbit missions around the earth has made space flight seem almost routine, although the above mentioned disasters shows that it is anything but.

Atlantis escaped earth’s atmosphere and gravity yesterday for the last time and it saddens me that yet another before-its-time design or project comes to an end due to unattainable escalating costs… just like the Apollo moon program, the SR-71 Blackbird, Concorde and now the space shuttle program.

It’s the end of an era and I’m sure mission STS-135 will be a roaring success. Congratulations to NASA for a flawless Atlantis launch. May she and her crew return safely in a fortnight. Godspeed.

For more info on all things related to the Space Shuttle program have a look at National Geographic’s web page :

Final launch video :

Space shuttle Atlantis is seen through the window of a Shuttl... on Twitpic

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