The STS-135 Flight Day 11 wakeup call came from Houston, as always, but in a broader sense of the word than usual.
"Good morning, Atlantis, from all of us at the Johnson Space Center!" an auditorium-full of JSC employees chorused in a message recorded before Atlantis' launch. "Have a great mission!"
Johnson Space Center is home not only to the astronaut corps, but also Mission Control and the space shuttle program, itself.
The message was preceded during the 9:29 p.m. CDT Sunday wakeup call by Keith Urban's "Days Go By," as chosen by mission specialist Rex Walheim.
Walheim and his fellow crew members — commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialist Sandy Magnus — are scheduled to close the hatches between the International Space Station (ISS) and a space shuttle for the last time today, at 8:19 a.m.
Before they do that, they will pack up the last of the cargo to come home from the ISS on Atlantis' middeck and move the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module back into place inside the shuttle's payload bay.
The crew finished packing Raffaello on Flight Day 10, and now it is just a matter of getting it — with its 5,666 pounds of returning cargo — back in place for the trip home. When it's unpacked back on Earth, multipurpose logistic modules will have returned 20 tons of supplies and equipment to Earth, and carried another 50 tons into space since their first mission, STS-102 in 2002.
The hatches between Raffaello and the space station were sealed at just after midnight.
After returning to Atlantis for the remainder of the STS-135 mission, the crew will prepare for Tuesday's undocking from the station, checking out the tools they will use for that activity and setting up a camera inside the shuttle hatch.
Each day that the final space shuttle mission is in flight, collectSPACE plans to highlight milestones and events from the space shuttle's history that also occurred on the same day over the past three decades. "Today in Space Shuttle History" will also note "lasts" being set by the STS-135 mission.
STS-135 Flight Day 11, July 18
1921 First American in orbit-turned U.S. Senator-turned space shuttle payload specialist John H. Glenn, Jr. is born. At age 77, Glenn became the oldest person to fly to space as a member of shuttle Discovery's STS-95 mission.
1974 NASA purchases a used Boeing 747-123 from American Airlines. The 86th 747 off Boeing's production line, NASA re-registered the aircraft as N905NA. After being used for in-house studies on wake vortices, NASA initiated a $30 million conversion program, transforming it into the first of NASA's two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) used to fly the Approach and Landing Tests with Enterprise (OV-101), and ferry the five space-worthy orbiters cross country.
1977 The first test firing of a space shuttle solid rocket booster (Development Motor-1, or DM-1) is performed at Thiokol's (now ATK's) Promontory, Utah facility. The motor runs for about two minutes in what observers describe as a "near perfect" test.
2001 STS-104 spacewalkers Mike Gernhardt and Jim Reilly in a six hour, 29 minute extravehicular activity (EVA) outfit the International Space Station's new Quest airlock with three dog house-shape high-pressure oxygen and nitrogen tanks.
2011 The last multipurpose logistics module (MPLM) is stowed back inside space shuttle Atlantis' payload bay, and for the last time, hatches are closed between the shuttle and the orbiting laboratory, ending joint operations between the ISS Expedition 28 and STS-135 crews.
Shuttle Aircraft Carrier N905NA, acquired July 18, 1974, separates from Enterprise in 1977.
Driving Canadarm2 from the robotic workstation inside the International Space Station's cupola, STS-135 mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Doug Hurley grappled the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module at 5:09 a.m. CDT. They detached it from the station's Harmony Node 2 at 5:46 a.m. and placed it back in space shuttle Atlantis' cargo bay at 6:48 a.m.
The 21-foot-long, 15-foot-diameter Raffaello is packed with almost 5,700 pounds of unneeded materials from the station that will be brought back to Earth. Over nearly eight days, crew members aboard the shuttle and station unloaded 9,403 pounds of spare parts, spare equipment and other supplies from Raffaello, including 2,677 pounds of food, that will sustain space station operations for the next year.
After more than a week working together as a joint crew and for the last time in space shuttle history, the four astronauts flying on the final space shuttle mission and the International Space Station's Expedition 28 crew bid farewell to each other before separating into their respective vehicles and closing the hatches.
During an extended farewell ceremony, shuttle Atlantis' commander Chris Ferguson presented the Expedition 28 crew with two special mementos: a model of the space shuttle signed by the shuttle program's leaders and, as previously announced, an U.S. flag flown on the first shuttle mission, STS-1, to be returned to Earth by astronauts launching on the next U.S. spacecraft. The flag is then to be launched to space again with the next U.S. mission to go beyond low Earth orbit.
"Thank you for honoring the thousands of people that have been part of the space shuttle program over the years. We look forward as you do to the day that that flag will return to Earth with a U.S. crew and then move on beyond our low Earth orbit," radioed Mission Control.
"On behalf of the Expedition 28 crew and the entire ISS program, we'd like to thank you, your crew and the entire STS-135 team for leaving the station ready to go for the rest of the decade," said station flight engineer Ron Garan.
The hatches between the International Space Station and a space shuttle Atlantis, after being open for seven days, 21 hours and 41 minutes, were closed for the final time at 9:28 a.m. CDT.
Space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to undock from the space station at 1:28 a.m. on Tuesday.