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Friday, July 8, 2011

Atlantis launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the space shuttle program's final mission ever, on July 8, 2011.
NASA / Fletcher Hildreth

THE END IS HERE... At 8:29 AM, Pacific Daylight Time today, the space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida to embark on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch was originally scheduled for 8:26 AM, but the countdown clock stopped at 31 seconds before liftoff because KSC officials wanted to make sure that the gaseous oxygen vent arm that connects from the launch tower to the top of the shuttle’s external fuel tank fully retracted. Atlantis will dock to the ISS this Sunday, and transfer more than a year’s worth of logistical supplies to the outpost over the next week before returning to KSC on July 20...which marks the 42nd anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.

Below are photos showing Atlantis undergoing construction in Southern California around 20 years ago. They are courtesy of Space.com.

Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
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Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
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Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
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Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
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Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
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Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
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Construction photos of space shuttle Atlantis.
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After completing construction, space shuttle Atlantis was unveiled to the public in Palmdale, California, on April 9, 1985.
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Space shuttle Atlantis is transported from her manufacturing plant in Palmdale to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base on April 9, 1985.
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