Atlantis was the fourth shuttle that NASA built. It first launched in 1985 and has logged 31 trips into low-earth orbit. This will be the last planned flight. But Launch Director Mike Leinbach says support staffers are too busy to indulge in nostalgia just yet.
“We have a job to do and we’re going to do that job. I think after launch there will probably be a little tear in some people’s eyes, I think after landing there will be, but then there’ll be some celebrations too, and that will take care of all that for us.”
The shuttle will carry extra batteries and other equipment to the International Space Station. The crew is also bringing up a number of science experiments, like one that will investigate how bacteria grows on surfaces in space. This is pre-launch official Mike Moses:
“This mission is carrying up a whole lot of science. It’s gonna be done on the station but it’s gonna take advantage of the shuttle crew and the extra hands that are gonna be around.”
The mission will last 12 days. After Atlantis lands, NASA will prepare it for another launch but hold it in reserve. That’s in case a shuttle is needed to rescue astronauts stranded in orbit in the future.
Attired in training versions of their shuttle launch and entry suits, these six astronauts take a break from training to pose for the STS-132 crew portrait. Pictured clockwise are NASA astronauts Ken Ham (bottom), commander; Garrett Reisman and Michael Good, both mission specialists; Tony Antonelli, pilot; Piers Sellers and Steve Bowen both mission specialists.