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Atlantis, astronauts ready; weather maybe not
“It’s that last frontier, that last place left for us to explore,” she said. “We’ve gone all over the world, and this is what’s left.”
NASA must launch Atlantis by Sunday or Monday or it will have to wait until at least July 16 because of an unmanned rocket launch scheduled for next week.
The 12-day mission will close out the space shuttle program, which began with the launch of Columbia in 1981. Atlantis will join Discovery and Endeavour in retirement, so NASA can focus on sending astronauts to asteroids and Mars. Private companies will take over the business of getting space station cargo and crews to orbit.
Once Atlantis soars, it will be another three years _ possibly five or more _ before astronauts blast off again from U.S. soil.
This will be the 33rd flight for Atlantis and the 135th shuttle mission overall.
“Everybody should be really proud how we’ve ended and just finishing strong,” Mendoza said.
Associated Press Writer Mitch Stacy contributed from Titusville, Fla.
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