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 5/13/2010 7:07:37 PM ET 2010-05-13T23:07:37

The weather is looking good for NASA's final planned liftoff of the space shuttle Atlantis on Friday.

Mostly clear skies should greet the seaside launch pad here at Kennedy Space Center for the scheduled 2:20 p.m. ET liftoff. The mission is expected to be the last for Atlantis and one of three final shuttle flights before NASA retires its three-orbiter fleet later this year.

Ground crews plan to begin loading Atlantis' giant orange external fuel tank with its super-chilled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants Friday at 4:55 a.m. ET.

"Good news as far as the weather is concerned," STS-132 weather officer Todd McNamara said during a Thursday briefing. "Overall, we're looking at really good conditions for launch operations."

McNamara predicted a 70 percent probability of favorable weather for the launch, with a small chance of low cloud ceilings preventing the shuttle from taking off. NASA needs cloudless skies so that range safety officials have a clear view to watch the entire launch.

Atlantis is slated to carry six astronauts and a new Russian research room called the Mini Research Module 1, or Rassvet ("Dawn"), to the International Space Station. The flight will also deliver a host of supplies and spare parts to help outfit the station for the era after NASA's three-orbiter space shuttle fleet retires. That retirement is currently planned for the end of the year.

In exchange for carrying the Russian module to space on its space shuttle, the United States gets to pack about 3,000 pounds (1,400 kilograms) of cargo inside it for the trip to space. The load will include crew supplies, food, new laptops and new hardware for the station.

"The primary objective is the launching of MRM-1," said Robby Ashley, NASA's STS-132 payload manager. "After the cargo is removed, they will transfer some experiment racks, it will be able to perform science."

As the last planned flight of Atlantis, the upcoming launch will be a momentous occasion, though it's also just business as usual at NASA, mission managers said.

"Every space shuttle flight is an amazing feat," NASA test director Jeremy Graeber said. "There is a huge number of people that are involved and put a whole lot of hard work and heart and effort into it. We care about each one exactly the same."

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