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The Legacy of Atlantis
George Diller/NASA Public Affairs Officer: Atlantis is the fourth orbiter in
NASA’s space shuttle fleet to launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Also designated Orbiter Vehicle-104, or OV-104, Atlantis is named after the primary research
vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930 to 1966.
Atlantis arrived at Kennedy on April 13, 1985, from Palmdale, Calif., and spent seven months
in an orbiter processing facility while NASA and contractor workers prepared
the vehicle for its maiden voyage.
NASA Launch Commentator: Ignition and liftoff. Liftoff of Atlantis, a new orbiter
joins the shuttle fleet and it has cleared the tower.
Space shuttle Atlantis launched on its first spaceflight, STS-51J, on Oct. 3, 1985,
and carried a classified payload for the U.S. Department of Defense.
During the last 25 years, Atlantis has served as the on-orbit launch site
for many noteworthy spacecraft, including the planetary probes Magellan and Galileo.
Starting with STS-71, Atlantis pioneered the Shuttle-Mir missions,
flying the first seven missions to dock with the Russian space station.
During the fourth docking mission, STS-79, in September 1996,
Atlantis ferried astronaut Shannon Lucid back to Earth after her record-setting 188 days in orbit
In recent years, Atlantis delivered several vital components to the
International Space Station, including the U.S. laboratory module Destiny,
as well as the Quest Joint Airlock and multiple sections of the integrated truss structure
that make up the station’s backbone.
The STS-125 mission aboard Atlantis in May 2009
was the fifth and final Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission.
Throughout the years, Atlantis has undergone two overhauls knows as
Orbiter Maintenance Down Periods.
Some of the most significant upgrades and
new features include installation of the drag chute, improved nosewheel steering,
installation of the space station airlock and orbiter docking system, and the multifunction
electronic display system, or “glass cockpit.”
With the launch of Atlantis on STS-132,
the vehicle will have flown 32 missions, carried more than 200 astronauts to and from space,
and traveled hundreds of millions of miles.
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