Video: Atlantis readied for final mission

  1. Closed captioning of: Atlantis readied for final mission

    >>> $56 million in arizona -related investments. right now nasa is holding a news conference in advance of friday's planned launch for space shuttle " atlantis ." 2:20 eastern off it will take off. it's scheduled to be retired. later this year is scheduled to be " atlantis " final mission . they hold a hearing this afternoon on the future of america 's space program . for more on it all joined by veteran nbc news space correspondent jay barberi. good to see you. let me talk about feelings from the workers who will watch " atlantis " on the blastoff and who are worried about the future of the space program .

    >> reporter: well, this afternoon you mentioned a commerce committee will be holding a hearing, tamron . neil armstrong , the first man on the moon and gene, the last man on the moon, will be testifying about america losing its first place in human spaceflight . what is a little unusual here, the space family is pretty much in step with president obama 's plans to fly beyond orbit, to go to the moon again, vicinity and eventually on to plars more so than they were with president bush 's. they are not getting the money to build the rockets to do it. that's what this hearing is about today, tamron .

    >>> jay, talk to us a little about what we'll see friday, 2:20 p.m . eastern. you've seen a whole lot. i know as a journalist, you don't make it personal but i'm curious about your feelings on what we will see friday.

    >> it's been my privilege to have covered all 162 flights by american astronauts in the last 50 years. and this will be 163. " atlantis 's" last flight. the next flight in september will be discovery. it will be 164. then "endeavour" is to fly mid november, early december for the final flight of the shuttle prachlt yes, i'm beginning to feel it right in here. i'm beginning to feel it right in here.

    >> jay, we're feeling it with you. nobody does it better than you in covering our space program and the developments of it and the future, quite honestly as well as the past. thank you, jay. we'll talk to you hopefully on friday. thank you, jay.

    >> you're welcome, tamron .

By Senior writer
updated 5/12/2010 2:41:21 PM ET 2010-05-12T18:41:21

NASA has cleared the space shuttle Atlantis for its final planned launch on Friday afternoon as the U.S. space agency prepares to retire its aging three-shuttle fleet.

Atlantis and a crew of six astronauts are poised to launch toward the International Space Station in what will be the 25-year-old shuttle's 32nd and last planned spaceflight. Liftoff is set for Friday at 2:20 p.m. ET from NASA's Kennedy Space Center here.

"We're ready to launch Atlantis and get this mission under way," shuttle integration manager Mike Moses said in a briefing near the seaside launch site. He spoke after meeting with other mission managers at a final launch readiness review panel where the team gave Atlantis a unanimous "go" for the Friday launch.

"Everything's looking great," Moses said. "The vehicle's doing great out on the pad."

There's a 70 percent chance of good weather for Atlantis' Friday launch, NASA officials said.

"Overall the weather looks favorable, not only for pre-launch operations today and tomorrow, but also for the launch on Friday," said STS-132 weather officer Todd McNamara. The only concern is a small risk of a low cloud ceiling appearing over the launch site and preventing liftoff.

If NASA must delay for any reason, a similar weather forecast holds for the next two days, when the team can try again.

Atlantis' upcoming flight is the first of three final space shuttle missions — one for each of NASA's remaining orbiters — scheduled before the reusable space plane fleet is retired. The shuttles Discovery and Endeavour are slated to make their final flights no earlier than September and November, respectively.

"It's been a glorious career," Moses said of Atlantis' looming final spaceflight. "It's a bittersweet time, but like I said, the teams are focused on the launch here."

Atlantis is set to lift off from Launch Pad 39A on the 132nd shuttle mission of NASA's nearly 30-year shuttle program.

"It's the type of thing where when you're alone and thinking about it, yeah, it kind of hits you," NASA launch director Mike Leinbach said of the end of Atlantis' run. "But when you're on console, like me and my launch team, we have a job to do and we're going to do that job."

Skywatchers on Earth will have a last chance during the mission to see Atlantis from Earth as it approaches the space station, as well as after it undocks.

The shuttle's all-veteran astronaut crew, commanded by U.S. Navy Capt. Ken Ham, plans to perform three spacewalks during the 12-day mission to deliver a new Russian research module, called Rassvet (which means "Dawn" in Russian), and other vital spare parts.

The six astronauts on the space station made room for the new Russian research module on Wednesday by moving a Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft to a new parking spot, clearing an Earth-facing berth on the Russian Zarya control module for Rassvet.

So far, preparations for Atlantis' launch have gone smoothly. The countdown began Tuesday afternoon, and Atlantis' astronaut crew has been at the launch site since Monday.

"Team Atlantis is really hitting its stride and is clicking on all eight cylinders," Leinbach said. "We're ready to give it our best shot Friday."

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