NASA has cleared space shuttle Atlantis to blast off on the 30-year space programme’s final mission on 8 July.
Atlantis is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11.26am EST.
During the 12-day mission, Atlantis‘ crew will deliver supplies to the space station, such as a year’s supply of food and a pair of iPhone 4s to be used in experiments, and will return items to Earth, including rubbish.
Flight managers are hoping to add an extra day at the space station, so crew members can add more cargo to Atlantis. The extra day depends on the shuttle’s energy consumption.
The space shuttle will carry the food on the off-chance resupply vehicles are delayed and can’t get to the ISS on time with supplies in the future.
Once Atlantis is back on Earth, NASA will retire its fleet of orbiters because of high operating costs and the need to free up funds for work on a new launch system that can carry people and cargo beyond the space station’s orbit, where shuttles can’t go.
Photo: Atlantis heads to space on 16 November 2009