/Robert Z. Pearlman
The STS-135 crew, from left, Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim, with space shuttle Atlantis rolling out to the launch pad behind them, on June 1, 2011.
By Editor,
updated 7/10/2012 1:22:54 PM ET 2012-07-10T17:22:54

One year (and two days) after launching on NASA's final space shuttle mission, the orbiter Atlantis is parked today just a few miles from the launch pad where it lifted off on July 8, 2011.

No longer flight-worthy — its main engines replaced with replicas and its hazardous fuel lines removed — Atlantis is waiting inside a high bay in the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building to complete its transformation into a museum-safe display later this year.

This November, NASA plans to roll Atlantis, the last of its space-flown shuttles, down the road to the center's visitor complex, where a $100 million exhibition hall for Atlantis will open to tourists next summer.

Like Atlantis and some of its parts, so too has dispersed the team that led STS-135, the final flight of NASA's 30-year shuttle program. A year since working together to fly one last mission to the International Space Station, the astronauts, Mission Control directors and managers have since moved on to other missions, programs and, in some cases, other organizations.

The final four
Atlantis' four astronauts — commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim — stayed together as a crew for four months after flying the 13-day STS-135 mission from July 8 to July 21, 2011.

They toured NASA centers, spoke to the public about their mission, visited with President Barack Obama in the White House and then finally, on Nov. 2, posed for photos together with the crew of the first space shuttle mission, STS-1 astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen. [ NASA's Last Shuttle Mission in Pictures ]

"We're done," Ferguson said that day, following the photo shoot. "Everyone goes their separate ways right now."

For Ferguson, that meant separating from NASA. On Dec. 9, Ferguson announced he was leaving the space agency. He accepted a position with Boeing, overseeing the design and development of the crew systems for their potential shuttle replacement, a capsule the company is calling the Commercial Space Transportation, or CST, 100.

Boeing's CST-100 is among a small group of commercial spacecraft competing for a NASA contract to fly astronauts to and from the space station. NASA is expected to reveal its choices of vehicles this summer.

Among the astronauts who could someday fly aboard the CST-100, if Boeing is selected, are Ferguson's STS-135 crewmates, who are still with NASA. In the interim, they too are working to advance future spacecraft and missions from within the space agency.

Hurley is currently the assistant director for new programs under NASA's Flight Crew Operations Directorate (FCOD) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Walheim is the Astronaut Office's main liaison to the Orion program and is providing input from an astronaut's perspective into the design and testing of the NASA crew capsule being built to go out to an asteroid, the moon and ultimately, Mars.

Magnus, who prior to flying on Atlantis' final mission spent 134 days on the International Space Station, is supporting the station program and its on-going expeditions.

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Atlantis, Mission Control
The STS-135 crew members were not the only astronauts involved with the final space shuttle mission. In addition to the crew's counterparts on board the space station, there were other astronauts heard each and every day of the shuttle flight — live from Mission Control.

Since the first U.S. human spaceflight more than 50 years ago, astronauts have served as "capcom," or the capsule communicator — traditionally, the only person in Mission Control to talk to the crew in space. For STS-135, the four shuttle capcoms were Shannon Lucid, Megan McArthur, Stephen Robinson and Barry "Butch" Wilmore.

Lucid — who woke the STS-135 crew during their mission with a resounding "Good morning, Atlantis!" — retired from NASA in January. A member of the first astronaut class to include women — as well as the first candidates chosen specifically to fly on the shuttle, Lucid flew five times to space herself, including a record-setting stay on board the Russian space station Mir.

Robinson, who served as the STS-135 lead capcom, recently left NASA on June 30 to become a faculty member at the University of California, Davis. In addition to serving as a professor, Robinson will lead in establishing the Center for Human-Vehicle Integration and Performance at UC Davis, intended to be a center of expertise for machine-enhanced human performance in hazardous environments, including during spaceflight.

McArthur and Wilmore are still in NASA's astronaut corps. McArthur (now Behnken) continues to serve as a capcom, recently coordinating with the space station's crew as they captured and berthed SpaceX's Dragon capsule, the first commercial spacecraft to ever visit the orbiting laboratory. Wilmore is in training to join a crew aboard the station.

The capcoms were responsible for conveying instructions from the mission's flight directors — STS-135 lead director Kwatsi Alibaruho, "Orbit 2" director Rick LaBrode, planning director Paul Dye, ascent director Richard Jones, (re)entry director Tony Ceccacci and "Team 4's" Gary Horlacher.

Alibaruho left NASA a month after Atlantis landed to become an executive director for systems engineering at Hamilton Sunstrand, an aerospace contractor. LaBrode is now coordinating NASA's future exploration plans within the Mission Operations Directorate. Jones is preparing for NASA's first Orion test spaceflight in 2014. And Ceccacci, Dye, and Horlacher are still leading Mission Control, now as space station flight directors.

Where today is space shuttle Atlantis’ launch director and mission management team? Continue reading at

Follow collectSpace on Facebook and Twitter @ collectSPACE and editor Robert Pearlman @ robertpearlman. Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

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Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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