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Final Space Shuttle Launched From Cape Canaveral

Space Shuttle Atlantis (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

The final space shuttle lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida this morning despite the heavy cloud cover and threat of rain.

 Atlantis blasted off just after eleven a.m. (mountain time) carrying a crew of four. This is the smallest shuttle crew since 1983, the size was limited because a smaller Russian Soyuz rocket would need to be used for a rescue vehicle.

The crew consists of commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus.

The scheduled 12-day mission will be the last of NASA’s 30 year Space Shuttle Program. Aboard Atlantis are multiple sets of patches and pins representing all 135 shuttle missions, as well as thousands of shuttle bookmarks for children. NASA Payload Manager Joe Delai says the patches and pins will be presented to schools following the flight.

The mission will culminate with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center on July 20th, the 42nd anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon.

Rain may postpone shuttle Atlantis launch (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Atlantis is bound for the International Space Station with a year’s worth of provisions. NASA wants the station to be well stocked in case there are delays in getting commercial launches started. The first privately operated supply run is tentatively scheduled for late this year using a California-based company, SpaceX.

Tourists from all around the world have arrived in Florida to watch the final shuttle launch, some estimates say close to a million people may be on hand to see Atlantis blast off.

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