Cosmic Ballet: Remembering Atlantis on 30th Anniversary of Maiden Flight (Part 4)


Between June 1995 and October 1997, Atlantis completed no fewer than seven dockings with Russia’s Mir space station, more than twice as many as any of her sister orbiters combined. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty years ago, this week, in October 1985, Atlantis became the fourth member of NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet to launch […]

On Opposing Sides of Tragedy: Remembering Atlantis on 30th Anniversary of Maiden Flight (Part 3)

Jerry Ross participates in the assembly of the EASE and ACCESS structures on Mission 61B in the fall of 1985. Ross became the first person to fly Atlantis twice and three times and is the only human to have flown her on as many as five occasions. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/

Thirty […]

'I'm Not Worthy': Remembering Atlantis on 30th Anniversary of Maiden Flight (Part 2)

During almost 26 years of operational service, Atlantis flew 33 missions, travelled an estimated 125.9 million miles (202.7 million km), circled Earth 4,848 times, and spent over 306 cumulative days in orbit. She is the second most-flown member of NASA’s shuttle fleet, after Discovery. Photo Credit: NASA

For the crew of STS-132, it was […]

'A Proud Legacy': Remembering Atlantis on 30th Anniversary of Maiden Flight (Part 1)

Atlantis alights on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 5:57 a.m. EDT on 21 July 2011, wrapping up a remarkable 33-mission career. Photo Credit: NASA/Kenny Allen

In the pre-dawn darkness of 21 July 2011, the small black-and-white dot of Atlantis glided smoothly into […]

'A New Orbiter Joins the Shuttle Fleet': 30 Years Since Atlantis' Maiden Voyage (Part 2)

Not until the summer of 1998 were any images from this most “vanilla” of Department of Defense flights revealed … although the nature of the flight had long since trickled into the public domain. A pair of Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS)-III satellites, mounted atop a Boeing-built Inertial Upper Stage, are here raised to […]

'For Tasks That Might or Might Not Take Place': 30 Years Since Atlantis' Maiden Voyage (Part 1)

During the course of her 33-mission career, which began 30 years ago on 3 October 1985, Atlantis flew more Department of Defense assignments than any other orbiter, beginning with her maiden voyage, 51J. In keeping with DoD missions, the patch was both highly symbolic and patriotic. Image Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/

Thirty years […]

Firing Up the Shuttle: Looking Back at the Flight Readiness Firings (Part 2)

For the final time in the 30-year shuttle program, Endeavour’s engines blaze for their Flight Readiness Firing (FRF) on 6 April 1992. Photo Credit: NASA

“Three engines up. All going well.”

Thirty years ago, last week, the three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) of the orbiter Atlantis roared to life and burned fiercely for […]

'About People Living in Space': 15 Years Since STS-106 (Part 2)

Impressive view of Atlantis and part of the International Space Station (ISS), captured during the STS-106 mission, 15 years ago, this week. Photo Credit: NASA

Amid cloudy conditions, only days after the departure of Hurricane Debby and having sustained a pre-launch strike on the Lightning Protection System at Pad 39B, NASA’s 99th space shuttle […]

'Six Months, Instead of Twelve': 15 Years Since STS-106 (Part 1)

The Zvezda (upper) and Zarya (lower) modules provided the critical cornerstone for early International Space Station (ISS) operations. Fifteen years ago, this week, STS-106 resumed work on the stalled construction effort. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifteen years ago, this week, a space shuttle flight which very nearly didn’t happen, happened. In early 2000, the initial […]

Summer of Discontent: 25 Years Since the Shuttle Hydrogen Leaks (Part 2)

In one of the most historic shuttle-era photographs ever taken, this image shows the STS-38/Atlantis stack (at right) returning to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for repairs on 9 August 1990. In doing so, it passed the STS-35/Columbia stack (at left), which was returning to the launch pad after several weeks of extensive repair […]