From here, though, it was just open ground between us and it. We stayed here for a few minutes to watch and photograph it. If any closer approach did in fact scare it off, then this was our last opportunity. ~ Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, Last Chance to See
Space shuttle Atlantis has undocked from the International Space Station, which means the end of the very last shuttle mission draws nigh. In this post, we turn our attention to the STS-135 crew, to the four individuals who are the last shuttle astronauts ever. Below, we have two sets of photographs representing the last chances we had to see this crew together before the mission, first during the rollover of Atlantis from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the Vehicle Assembly Building and then during the walkout to the Astrovan on the morning that the mission began.
COMMANDER CHRIS FERGUSEN hails from Philadelphia and is the drummer for the band Max Q. STS-135 is his third space shuttle mission.
PILOT DOUG HURLEY flew on one previous shuttle mission and has been training with the rest of the STS-135 crew since September.
MISSION SPECIALIST SANDY MAGNUS originally hails from Belleville, Illinois. Since we, too, are native Illinoisans, we’ll give Sandy Magnus a few column inches here. Of Belleville, she says, “It was really quite a nice place to grow up, very solid, well-grounded community, lots of very nice people, and I enjoyed it.” She goes further, talking about the importance of her upbringing: “We’re very well-grounded in the Midwest. People are friendly; they value hard work and discipline and help each other. It’s just a really nice community. I really value the fact that I got to grow up in such a great place.”
After working as a stealth engineer, she was selected for astronaut training in 1996. After two years of training, she qualified for a mission assignment. She’s travelled to the International Space Station on two trips prior to STS-135, one of which involve a 4-1/2 month stay. Another astronaut on the ISS at the time was Mike Fincke, the American record-holder for time-in-space after STS-134. Among her assigned tasks, what else did she do in orbit for that long? “I took some pictures of the [Belleville] area and showed them to my family, found the street my mom lives on, sent her that.”
One of her main goals on STS-135 was to make sure that she brought back as much trash from the ISS as possible. The shuttle’s payload bay is far larger than what a Soyuz capsule can hold, so taking away as much unneeded stuff as possible is important. “Yes, we are very enthusiastic in our use of packing material here at NASA and the goal is to not leave a lot of that excess up on station because it’s just trash that has to be gotten rid of later, and one of my personal goals for this mission is to minimize the amount of [packing] foam that we leave on the station.” A unique mission goal, which was accomplished today, was photographing the ISS from as many different angles as possible, for the engineers to assess, of course, but also perhaps for posterity.
MISSION SPECIALIST REX WALHEIM is a Californian aloft on the shuttle for the third time, all three of which have been aboard Atlantis.
ROLLOVER OF ATLANTIS
STS-135 CREW WALKOUT