Strange as it may seem, Saturday will mark the first year PSS — Post Space Shuttle. On July 21, 2011, the space shuttle Atlantis touched down at Kennedy Space Center at the conclusion of STS-135, the 135th and final mission of NASA's space shuttle program.
A number of historical lasts occurred within STS-135, which is to be expected when you retire what is arguably the most recognizable and indisputably the longest running spaceflight program ever put forth by humankind. Setting aside the fact that Atlantis flew with the smallest crew since the maiden voyage of Challenger, STS-135 saw:
- The final docking of a space shuttle with the International Space Station (ISS);
- The last spacewalk involving a space shuttle (though no shuttle crew performed the extravehicular activity);
- The final downmass payload for the foreseeable future, as no other operational or planned spacecraft will have the shuttle's ability to return major cargo from orbit (Atlantis brought back largely broken components from the ISS so analysts could determine the cause of the system failures).
Lost in the technical finalities were a number of sentimental end-chapters for the space program, not least of which was the wake-up song tradition. Since the days of the Gemini program, NASA has used musical pieces as the wake alarms for spacecraft crew, and every shuttle mission has a specific lineup of songs used to signify the start of the astronauts' working day. While the tradition will continue in a certain fashion aboard the ISS, and will likely be adopted on whatever manned spacecraft succeeds the shuttle, never again will there be a musical wake-up call aboard a space shuttle.
WHAT WAS THE LAST ASTRONAUT WAKE-UP SONG PLAYED ABOARD A SPACE SHUTTLE?Get the answer.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.