NASA's Liberty Star vessel returned to Port Canaveral on July 10th towing Space Shuttle Atlantis' right Solid Rocket Booster (SRB). The vessel and crew successfully retrieved the SRB after it splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast. The shuttle's left SRB did not return until the next day due to mechanical difficulties with it's towing vessel, Freedom Star. The SRB's help propel the shuttle into orbit in addition to the orbiter's main engines. Click on the image to view the entire gallery from the final launch.
The final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis also marks the end of NASA's thirty year Space Shuttle Program. Thousands of media representatives and possible millions of spectators converged on central Florida and Kennedy Space Center for the historic July 8th launch.
Despite torrential downpours and lightning the day before, Launch Director Mike Leinbach decided to push through with only a 30% chance for favorable weather at launch time. To the surprise of thousands the launch countdown continued as weather cleared. Aside from a brief mechanical glitch which held the countdown at T-minus 31 seconds, the launch went off without a hitch. Many members of the media, several who had been covering the program for decades, could be seen with watery eyes as they said goodbye to an old friend.
Click on the image to view the entire gallery.