Thursday, July 21, 2011

STS135: Atlantis rolls safely to a stop

Heads up display inside Atlantis cockpit.

At 3: 57 a.m. MDT Thursday, July 21, shuttle orbiter Atlantis touched down on the long runway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The drogue chute deployed, slowing the craft while it braked to ensure it didn't roll right off the tarmac. When it came to a stop, so did the STS program.

Well at least you can see the drogue chute.

The landing took place just before the first rays of dawn hit the East Coast, so it was still pretty dark. The shuttle's arrival was first announced by the twin sonic booms as it entered Florida airspace faster than the speed of sound. NASA infrared cameras picked up the falling orbiter, glowing in infrared from its fiery journey through the atmosphere. The astronauts guided the craft through a series of turns, bleeding off excess speed while dropping like a huge brick from the sky.

Infrared view of the end of the journey.

Once stopped, the orbiter released pent-up gases and heat while astronauts began shutting down systems. When the shuttle was off and the gases safe enough, the hatch was opened and the astronauts released to the ground, gaining their Earth-legs again.

Move along, folks. It's all over. Nothing to see here.

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