Scratch "see space shuttle launch" off my bucket list. Not because I've seen one, but because I'll never get the chance to. Today is the last time a space shuttle will launch under NASA's space shuttle program. At approximately 11:26 EST, Atlantis will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida marking the last ever NASA shuttle mission to space. Single tear.
I feel like it was just yesterday that the Discovery shuttle was retired, and now the final launch is upon us. So, fellow outer-space-loving Americans, let's make the most of our last blast-off. If you miss this one, there won't be another one, so better start paying attention.
Here are five things you need to know about the final mission of NASA's space shuttle program:
- The launch. Did I mention it was the last one? Ever? The Atlantis lift-off will close the 30-year NASA Space program. The funding for the shuttle program has been cancelled and re-allocated to a long-term goal of building a ship that will take us to an asteroid, and then to Mars.
- How to watch: Blast-off is scheduled for 11:26 EST, but they're keeping an eye on the weather. If it's inclement, the launch will be rescheduled for tomorrow or Sunday. You can watch the exciting stuff here! Watch the video below.
- The crew: The four astronauts have packed special souvenirs on board to commemorate this momentous occasion. They're not sharing what it is, but I bet it's better than frozen dinners and dehydrated fruit. This crew is smaller than usual; generally there are six to seven astronauts a trip.
- The mission: Atlantis is primed for a 12-day mission that will travel to the International Space Station, drop off almost 10,000 supplies, and will test strategies on how to best refuel and repair orbiting satellites.
- There's an app for that: GoAtlantis, an app for your iPhone, will track the mission and give you all the deets you need. It'll turn your armchair into a veritable space shuttle -- you'll feel like you're there. Sorry, weightlessness not included.
Are you excited for the launch?
UPDATE: The launch went off without a hitch and Atlantis is safely on her way to the International Space Station.
Photo via Matthew Simantov/Flickr