The four STS-135 astronauts and their family members who came to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for yesterday’s landing and completion of the Space Shuttle Program’s final mission will return home to Houston this afternoon. The public is invited to attend a welcome home ceremony at 4 p.m. CDT in NASA’s Hangar 990 at Ellington Field. Gates to Ellington Field will open at 3:30 p.m. The ceremony will be broadcast live on NASA TV and online at www.nasa.gov/ntv.
Space shuttle Atlantis was towed into Kennedy’s Orbiter Processing Facility-2 following yesterday’s employee appreciation event. Technicians will spend the next few weeks reconfiguring Atlantis after its final flight. Today, they will finish readying the shuttle and its hangar for the normal post-flight processing and begin draining residual cryogenic reactants. They’ll continue deservicing work through the weekend.
Atlantis touched down yesterday on the Shuttle Landing Facility’s Runway 15 at 5:57 a.m. EDT. The landing brought to a close 30 years of space shuttle flights.
“Although we got to take the ride,” said Commander Chris Ferguson on behalf of his crew, “we sure hope that everybody who has ever worked on, or touched, or looked at, or envied or admired a space shuttle was able to take just a little part of the journey with us.”
The STS-135 crew consisted of Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.
“I really want to thank the space shuttle team and the Space Shuttle Program for just a tremendous effort today and throughout the entire history of the program. We gave them a tremendous challenge to fly and execute these missions and to finish strong and I can tell you today that the team accomplished every one of those objectives,” said Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier as he addressed the media at the post-landing news conference. “I’d also like to thank the nation for allowing us to have these thirty years to go use the shuttle system.”
On the 13-day mission, the STS-135 crew delivered to the International Space Station more than 9,400 pounds of spare parts, spare equipment and other supplies in the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module, including 2,677 pounds of food. The supplies will sustain space station operations for the next year. The 21-foot long, 15-foot diameter Raffaello brought back nearly 5,700 pounds of unneeded materials from the station.