NASA launches Shuttle Atlantis

by Chris Bergin

NASA have launched Space Shuttle Atlantis, in what appears at first look to be a clean ride uphill, with no issues reported.

Atlantis is carrying a crew of six and the P3/P4 truss section to the International Space Station (ISS) – the first assembly flight in four years.

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In what appears to be a flawless launch – on the final opportunity in the current window – Atlantis is now in orbit, preparing for Monday’s docking with the ISS.

During the post-launch press conference, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin acknowledged the problems that had delayed Atlantis’ launch until today, but noted the triumph in NASA’s ability to finally launch – and restart ISS assembly missions.

‘Once again it is an honour to be associated with this program and this team,’ said Griffin. ‘What you saw today was a flawless count and a majestic launch – but it was tough to get here.

‘This vehicle had not flown in many years and not everything leading up to this day was easy.’

‘Any day we launch the Space Shuttle is a great day,’ added KSC manager Leroy Cain. ‘The team did a fabulous job today.’

Cain also made a point about how uneventful the launch countdown was, as no issues – unlike the previous attempt – arose during the 11 hour countdown.

‘I was looking to make some notes about what I might talk to you about today,’ he added. ‘I brought by console notes, but it’s kinda ‘On Console, Go for launch, Launch, MECO (Main Engine Cut Off), and there’s not a whole lot more in-between there!

‘I’m here representing the Mission Management Team (MMT) and I’m privilaged to chair that group of folks – it’s an outstanding group of individuals, that represent an even larger world class team.’

One of the highlights of the countdown were comments from Atlantis’ Commander Brent Jett, who made a great speech prior to lift off, ensuring everyone listening were fully aware of yet another new chapter of the Space Shuttle program was being opened.

‘It’s been almost four years, two Return to Flight missions, a tremendous amount of work by thousands of individuals to get the shuttle program back to where we are right now and that’s on the verge of restarting the station assembly sequence,’ said Jett.

‘We’re confident over the next few weeks, and few years for that matter, that NASA’s going to prove to our nation, to our partners and our friends around the world that it was worth the wait and the sacrifice. We’re ready to get to work.’

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