Atlantis launched into dark, stormy skies with so much haze in the air that the launch pad and the launch itself were greatly obscured from twelve miles away where all these photographs were taken. Because of this fact, the resulting bland almost featureless images had to undergo a great amount of processing to bring out anything worth looking at, which also resulted in the introduction of numerous color artifacts/distortions. Still, the images give a good idea of what occurred during this historic event.

After a harrowing abort hold in the last minute to check that a gas vent arm had retracted properly from the External Tank, the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the final mission (STS-135) of the Space Shuttle Program at 11:29 a.m. from Kennedy Space Center on 8 July 2011. Atlantis is crammed with supplies and spare parts along with four astronauts and the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module on the final Space Shuttle re-supply flight to the International Space Station.

The images show in the top row, the NASA television helicopter, and next to it a view of part of the enormous crowd that showed up to see Atlantis off. The crowd image shows how dark the day was with a threat of rain as small raindrops were falling at this location at liftoff. The next row shows Atlantis on the pad, and then ignition of the main engines. Below that, Atlantis lifts off, and then three images showing the roll maneuver to put Atlantis into a heads down position for the climb to orbit.

As Atlantis breaks the sound barrier the shock wave causes water vapor to briefly condense around the Shuttle, especially around the upper parts of the Solid Rocket Boosters. Then Atlantis disappears into the clouds for the first time. In the next row, Atlantis is visible for a moment through a hole in the clouds before disappearing for the final time obscuring Solid Rocket Booster separation and the rest of the launch. Go to Page Two of Two > > >

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