The Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134) successfully took off on its 16-day mission at 8:56 a.m. EDT this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida, making NASA’s second-to-last shuttle flight. Atlantis, scheduled for June, will be NASA’s last shuttle mission in space.
Showing a sense of humor on a poignant day, NASA released a Star Trek-like poster in honor of the team on board, led by Commander Mark Kelly (whose wounded-but-recovering wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was in the crowd watching as her team tweeted).[more]
As NASA notes on its Facebook page,
While today marks the start of the STS-134 space shuttle mission, it’s also the anniversary of the end of one of NASA’s most storied programs. On this day 48 years ago, astronaut Gordon Cooper splashed down in the Pacific Ocean to end the final flight of Project Mercury, the program that first put Americans in space and led to the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. This 1963 photo shows Cooper being helped out of his Faith 7 capsule after more than 34 hours in space. Cooper had elected to remain in the spacecraft until it was hoisted to the deck of the U.S.S. Kearsarge. He broke the U.S. record with 22 orbits of Earth and was the last American to fly alone in space.