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Space Shuttle Atlantis - Flown Thermal Blanket

Space Shuttle Atlantis - Flown Thermal Blanket

This specimen is a piece of a mission-flown insulation blanket, which was part of Atlantis' Thermal Control System. The TCS helped the ship withstand the extreme increase in temperatures during atmospheric reentry and the TCS blanket was applied to the inside of the shuttle to protect internal components and systems.

Above: NASA image STS076-370-020, taken from the Russian Mir Space Station. Atlantis docks with Mir to transfer Shannon W. Lucid aboard, who will spend 179 days on the Russian station.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis (OV-104) was the fourth of the five space shuttles used in space operations. It was also the final shuttle to be flown. Atlantis orbited Earth 4,848 times, traveling approximately 126 million miles, and carried 156 different passengers over its time in service.

Above: A view of Atlantis on launchpad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (STS-132, May 13, 2010). (Source: NASA KSC-2010-3310)

NASA's Space Shuttle program delivered 133 successful missions during its three decades in operation, beginning with Columbia's inaugural mission in 1981 and concluding with Atlantis' final mission in 2011. Missions involved many vital tasks, such as maintaining the International Space Station, repairing the Hubble Space Telescope, and deploying satellites. Scientific experiments featured heavily in the rotation, using the reusable Spacelab developed by the ESA.

On July 8, 2011, Atlantis began the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program. Like so many missions before, STS-135 was a marvel of science and engineering but it was also the closure point for 30 years of incredible adventures.

As Atlantis departed from the International Space Station, Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson had the following words:

"When a generation accomplishes a great thing, it's got a right to stand back and for just a moment admire and take pride in its work. As the ISS now enters the era of utilization we'll never forget the role the space shuttle played in its creation. Like a proud parent, we anticipate great things to follow from the men and women who build, operate and live there. From this unique vantage point we can see a great thing has been accomplished. Farewell ISS. Make us proud."

For more on the final mission, please visit NASA's own farewell "STS-135: The Final Voyage".

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