The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on its last space flight, a round-trip mission to the International Space Station. The 12-day flight is doubly historic since it is the 135th and final mission in the 30-year history of NASA’s space shuttle program. “It’s been our honor to support the space shuttle program the past three decades,” said Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson, 45th Space Wing commander. “We’re all saddened to see this historic era come to an end, but we look forward with hope and enthusiasm for what lies ahead in our nation’s human spaceflight program.” Atlantis is ferrying supplies and spare parts to ISS. The four-person crew includes mission specialist Rex Walheim, a retired Air Force colonel. During the mission, the crew will investigate the potential for robotically refueling satellites. One space walk is also planned. (Cape Canaveral report and second report) (NASA’s STS-135 background document; caution, large file.) (See also our initial coverage.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.