Endeavour took off for the last time today, 12 years ago

Twelve years ago today, the Space Shuttle Endeavour took off from John F. Kennedy Space Center for the last time in its history.
Christopher McFadden
Image of Endeavour docked with the ISS during the mission.

NASA Shuttle Mission Imagery/Wikimedia Commons 

Twelve years ago today, the Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134) lifted off from John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, for the last time in history. Carrying its crew of 6, the shuttle's mission was to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts, including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, and additional spare parts for Dextre.

The mission was also the 25th and last for Endeavour but was also the 36th shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It was also the penultimate mission of the Space Shuttle program in general. Onboard her were Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson, and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel, and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

If the next mission, STS-135, did not acquire funds from Congress, STS-134 was anticipated to be the last Space Shuttle mission. However, as it turned out, NASA declared in February 2011 that STS-135 would launch "regardless" of the financing situation. Atlantis' STS-135 mission, launched instead of the "Launch on Need" mission that would have been required if the STS-134 crew had become stranded in orbit, used the processing for STS-335.

The mission was delayed due to changes in the design of the primary payload, AMS-02, and delays to STS-133. Launch management scrubbed the first launch attempt on April 29, 2011, at 12:20 pm due to issues with two heaters on one of the orbiter's auxiliary power units (APU). On May 16, 2011, Endeavour successfully launched at 08:56:28 EDT (12:56:28 UTC), and on June 1, 2011, it made its final landing.

Some notable events were associated with the mission, including, tragically, the first launchpad fatality for the program since 1981. One engineer, James Vancouver, decided to commit suicide by jumping from the STS-134 launchpad on May 14, delaying the launch until the 16th. On the less tragic side, the Endeavour carried some other interesting payloads to the ISS, including thirteen LEGO kits built by the astronauts to see how the kits would react in microgravity. Results from this experiment were shared with school children.

A package of nutritional bars developed by high school students called STEM bars was also delivered and consumed on the ISS. On the return voyage, a "Little Mole" figurine was brought back to Earth by Andrew Feustell. This was later presented to the characters' creator in the Czech Republic.

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