Ground Control to Major Tom: Engines Off

I’ve taken the liberty of adapting lyrics from David Bowie‘s 1969 hit, Space Oddity,from the album of the same name, to commemorate the final landing of NASA’s space shuttle, Atlantis, at NASA‘s “Kennedy Space Center, earlier today.

The space shuttle, Atlantis, was the fourth orbiter in America’s fleet of space shuttles. Like most of the space shuttles, it was named after a pioneering sea vessel which established new frontiers in research and exploration, specifically, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s research ship, the Atlantis, the first U.S. vessel to be used for oceanographic research. (Note – In 1976, Enterprise, the first Space Shuttle Orbiter, was originally to be named Constitution (in honor of the U.S. Constitution’s Bicentennial). However, viewers of the popular TV Science Fiction show Star Trek started a write-in campaign urging the White House to select the name Enterprise.

Atlantis lifted off on its maiden voyage on Oct. 3, 1985 and is the first of the shuttles that are closing out their flying careers and eventually heading to museums. Only two shuttle flights remain — Discovery and Endeavour and barring a reprieve from the White House, these two will also be retired and then take off for a museum.

Atlantis is ending its run after spending a total of 294 days in orbit and circling Earth 4,648 times. It has carried 189 astronauts and visited the International Space Station 11 times. It also flew seven times to Russia’s old Mir station and once to the Hubble Space Telescope.


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