As the Space Shuttle program came to an end in 2011, I was lucky enough to be selected in a lotto drawing to view STS-134, the last launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. To view the early morning launch at 8:56:28 EDT, we were onsite at 2:30 EDT. The prelaunch activities included full access to the Visitor Complex, along with talks by former NASA astronauts. Enduring little sleep and a chilly May Florida night, we will always remember this historic event in America’s Space Program.
STS-134 (ISS assembly flight ULF6) was the penultimate mission of NASA’s Space Shuttle program. The mission marked the 25th and last spaceflight of Space Shuttle Endeavour. This flight delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and an ExPRESS Logistics Carrier to the International Space Station. Mark Kelly served as the mission commander. STS-134 was expected to be the final space shuttle mission if STS-135 did not receive funding from Congress; however, in February 2011, NASA stated that STS-135 would fly “regardless” of the funding situation. The Launch On Need mission, a contingency mission to rescue a stranded STS-134 crew, would have been the STS-135 flight (formerly STS-335), flown by Atlantis.
Changes in the design of the main payload, AMS-02, as well as delays to STS-133, led to delays in the mission. The first launch attempt on 29 April 2011 was scrubbed at 12:20 pm by launch managers due to problems with two heaters on one of the orbiter’s auxiliary power units (APU). Endeavour launched successfully at 08:56:28 EDT (12:56:28 UTC) on 16 May 2011, and landed for the final time on 1 June 2011.