When Space Shuttle Atlantis left Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, July 8, it marked the final liftoff for the long-running Space Shuttle Program, which has dominated NASA's manned operations for the past four decades. Over a 12-day mission (since extended to 13 days), the four-person crew on STS-135 will haul the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Raffaello and a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Carrier (LMC) to the International Space Station. Over the course of the mission, we'll be providing daily updates.
Several hours later, after completing the transfer of supplies and equipment between the Space Station and the Raffaello module, the crew started to depressurize the vestibule that connected the module to the Harmony node for the past week. After that 90-minute process was completed, astronauts Doug Hurley and Sandy Magnus used the Canadarm2, the Space Station's robotic arm, to grab the Raffaello module and the hatch was closed, sealing in nearly 6,000 pounds of trash and equipment no longer needed at the Station for the return trip to Earth. Two hours later, the hatch on the Harmony side was also sealed.
Manipulating the Canadarm2 from the Station's robotic workstation, Magnus and Hurley spent more than an hour and a half moving the Raffaello module into Atlantis' cargo bay. The equipment and supplies that were packed inside of the 21-foot-long module and delivered to the Station during this trip will keep operations going for another year.
With everything in place, the crews of Space Shuttle Atlantis and Expedition 28 -- those currently working on the International Space Station -- said their goodbyes and the hatches between the two units were sealed for the final time at 10:28 a.m. EDT. They had been open for seven days, 21 hours and 41 minutes.