An exhaust cloud forms as the engines ignite beneath space shuttle Atlantis on Launch Pad 39A on the Atlantic coastline at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Atlantis began its final flight, the STS-135 mission to the International Space Station, at 11:29 a.m. EDT July 8.
STS-135 will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts to the orbiting laboratory. Atlantis also is flying the Robotic Refueling Mission experiment that will investigate the potential for robotically refueling existing satellites in orbit. In addition, a failed ammonia pump module will be returned to Earth aboard Atlantis to help NASA better understand the failure mechanism and improve pump designs for future systems. STS-135 is the 33rd flight of Atlantis, the 37th shuttle mission to the space station, and the 135th and final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program. For more information, visit www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts135/index.html. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tom Farrar