Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch

07/06/2021 11:02 AM ET

The launch will be the last for any space shuttle. Space shuttle launch. Hoping weather doesn’t affect the timing NASA is working towards final preparations of the last mission.

There’s a 60 percent chance that rain or thunderstorms will postpone the liftoff of Atlantis, shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters said Tuesday. Friday’s launch time is 11:26 a.m., the countdown clock for the space shuttle launch started Tuesday afternoon.

The four Atlantis shuttle astronauts entered a standard preflight quarantine last Friday to prevent illness and limit exposure to any harmful germs. Atlantis’ 12-day mission, called STS-135, will deliver huge spare parts to the International Space Station, along with other supplies, in order to prepare the orbiting laboratory for its life without visiting space shuttle missions. As many as 1 million spectators are expected to jam the Cape Canaveral area for the historic send-off.

NASA test director Jeremy Graeber said the launch team is doing its best to put off any emotions associated with the end of the 30-year shuttle era, until Atlantis flies. “The team gets into the mode of this-is-launch-countdown, and that’s really the focus that everybody has,” Graeber told journalists. “The rest of the emotion that really comes with the end of the space shuttle program, I think will really kind of roll in as launch is completed.”

NASA said it must launch Atlantis by Sunday—choosing the best two out of three days—otherwise it will have to wait until at least July 16. That’s because of an unmanned rocket due to lift off next week. The four astronauts will be mission specialists Rex Walheim, Sandra Magnus, pilot Doug Hurley and commander Chris Ferguson. This the 135th flight in the shuttle program is the last because NASA has been ordered to get out of the Earth-to-orbit business and focus instead on trips to true outer space: an asteroid and Mars.

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