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NASA’s Space Shuttle Scheduled to Return to Earth for Final Time Thursday

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The final flight of NASA’s 30-year-old space shuttle program is scheduled to end on Thursday, July 21, when Atlantis and its STS-135 crew return to Earth. The landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida marks the completion of a 13-day mission to supply the International Space Station for the post-shuttle era.
Thursday’s Kennedy landing opportunities are at 5:56 a.m. and 7:32 a.m. EDT. Atlantis’ entry flight control team, led by Flight Director Tony Ceccacci, will evaluate weather conditions at the landing site before giving approval to Atlantis to return. If the shuttle is unable to come home Thursday, additional opportunities are available on Friday at Kennedy and at the backup landing site, Edwards Air Force Base in California. Recorded updates about landing are available at 321-867-2525.
Journalists are invited to cover news briefings and special events to commemorate the historic event. To cover landing at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) runway, reporters must sign up at Kennedy’s press site for transportation. NASA will accommodate as many news media representatives as possible, but the number is limited because of safety requirements.
At about 7:45 a.m., NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson will make comments at the shuttle runway. The remarks will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
From about 8 – 9 a.m. on Thursday, following the astronaut’s departure from the shuttle runway, a limited number of journalists at the SLF will be allowed near Atlantis for a photo opportunity and comments from Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. Interested journalists must e-mail Allard Beutel by 5 p.m. Wednesday. Space is limited.
At 10 a.m., NASA officials will hold a briefing at Kennedy’s press site to discuss Atlantis’ STS-135 mission. The event will be broadcast live on NASA TV and the agency’s website. The participants will be:
– Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, NASA Headquarters
– Bob Cabana, director, Kennedy Space Center
– Mike Moses, space shuttle launch integration manager
– Mike Leinbach, space shuttle launch director
Also at about 10 a.m., Atlantis will be towed from the runway and parked outside Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2) for several hours to give employees an opportunity to walk around and photograph the shuttle. Reporters interested in covering the move must sign up at the press site for transportation to the photo opportunity locations. These events will not be carried live on NASA TV.
At 11:45 a.m., Bolden and Cabana will host an employee appreciation event outside OPF-2. Journalists can cover the event from a designated media area near the main stage. News media representatives interested in covering the event must sign up at the press site for transportation. The event will be broadcast live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.
At about noon, following opening comments at the employee event, the STS-135 crew is expected to participate in a post-landing news conference from the press site. The astronauts’ availability is subject to change. Immediately after a 20 minute media question-and-answer session, the astronauts will go to the employee appreciation event to talk briefly to the work force. The events will be broadcast live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.
The Kennedy press site will open for shuttle Atlantis’ landing at 8 a.m. Wednesday and remain open until 6:30 p.m. Thursday. News media representatives approved for STS-135 mission badges can pick them up at NASA’s Pass and Identification Building on State Road 3 on Wednesday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Thursday from 2 – 4 a.m. The last bus will depart from the press site for the SLF about one hour before landing.
If the shuttle landing is diverted to Edwards after Thursday, reporters should call the public affairs office at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at 661-276-3449 for access. Dryden has limited facilities available for previously accredited journalists.
If Atlantis lands Thursday, it will have spent 307 days in space and traveled nearly 126 million miles during its 33 flights. Atlantis launched on its first mission on Oct. 3, 1985. For the latest information about the STS-135 mission and accomplishments, visit: 

The NASA News Twitter feed is updated throughout the shuttle mission and landing. To follow, visit:

For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:

For more information about the space station and its crew, visit:

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Michael Curie
Headquarters, Washington


Kyle Herring
Johnson Space Center, Houston

Candrea Thomas
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.