NASA is preparing to launch its final liftoff Friday, despite the possibility that rainstorms may delay the last flight of the 30-year-program.
Forecasters said there is a 70 percent chance of bad weather, but the four shuttle astronauts boarded the Atlantis and are preparing for liftoff at 11:26 a.m.
“We do have a shot at this today,” the Associated Press reported launch director Mike Leinbach as saying.
Around 750,000 people are expecting to gather to see the final shuttle launch. Among them will be first shuttle pilot ever, Robert Crippen.
The shuttle is loaded with more than 8,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station that is expected to last a year. The mission will last 12 days. After this final launch, private companies plan to take care of getting space station cargo and crews to orbit.
If the liftoff is delayed, NASA must launch Atlantis on Sunday or Monday or it will have to wait until at least July 16. An unmanned rocket launch is scheduled for next week.
The space shuttle program began with the launch of Columbia in 1981. Since then there have been 135 shuttle missions overall. This will be the 33rd flight for Atlantis.
NASA will now focus on sending astronauts to asteroids and Mars, though it will be another three years to five years before a shuttle takes off from American soil.
After the mission Atlantis will retire like Discovery and Endeavour.
With Associated Press