The Last Space Shuttle Mission: Flight Day 8


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.

Only about an hour and a half after going to sleep, the Space Shuttle Atlantis crew was awakened at 6:07 p.m. EDT because one of the five computers responsible for running the Shuttle dropped out of the network. "GPC-4 was being used as the systems management computer for Atlantis," NASA explained. "The crew worked a standard malfunction procedure to swap system management from GPC-4 to GPC-2, completing the procedure at 6:47 p.m." With the Shuttle in stable condition, and after accepting the offer of 30 additional minutes of sleep from Mission Control, the crew went back to bed.

Story continues after the gallery, which will be updated as the mission wears on.

At 12:59 a.m. EDT, the crew was reawakened, this time by "Good Day Sunshine" by Paul McCartney. Following the song, the astronauts were greeted with a special message prerecorded by Sir McCartney: "Good morning guys," he said. "Wake up! And good luck on this, your last mission. Well done."

Once awake, Space Shuttle Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson worked on GPC-4, the computer that failed several hours before. With help from pilot Doug Hurley, Ferguson reloaded software onto the computer and recovered all of the necessary data. "It has been added to the common set of GPCs and is operating normally, processing data," NASA reported at the time. "Meanwhile, Mission Control is evaluating the 'dump' of data from the computer that Atlantis transmitted earlier this morning to determine what caused the Thursday evening failure. GPCs 1, 2 & 4 are in 'run' and GPC 3 is in 'standby.' All four of the primary computers are processing data."

With that troubleshooting work out of the way, and the rest of the problem dumped into Mission Controls hands, the combined crew aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station continued to transfer equipment and supplies out of the Raffaello module and reloading it with materials to be returned to Earth. In the early afternoon, President Obama placed a call to the crew. "The President saluted the final shuttle mission, and noted that it also 'ushers in an exciting new era to push the frontiers of space exploration and human spaceflight,'" NASA reported.

Read more reports from the final Space Shuttle mission: Flight Day 4Flight Day 5Flight Day 6 and Flight Day 7.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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