Only four astronauts were assigned to this mission, versus the normal six
or seven, because there were no other Space Shuttles available for a
rescue following the retirement of Discovery and Endeavour. If the
shuttle was seriously damaged in orbit, the crew would have moved into
the International Space Station and returned, one at a time over the
course of a year, in Russian Soyuz capsules.
"Over the course of more than 30 years, we want to salute the entire astronaut corp, for their dedication, not only for our expanded knowledge of our universe, but for the improvements you have contributed to our earth God Speed"
"That is the most graceful, beautiful vehicle we've had to fly in space, ever, and it's going to be a long time until you see a vehicle roll out to the pad that looks as beautiful as that," STS-135 Flight Engineeer Rex Walheim said. "How can you beat that? An airplane on the side of a rocket. It's absolutely stunning."
“On an evening that is draped in emotion and steeped in history, down
the hallowed halls of Mission Control here in Houston, this is likely
the final shift in the history of space shuttle program.” —NASA
commentator Rob Navias, on the live-streamed coverage of shuttle
"You all did a great job! This is the best video - as an industry employee, my
job will be over with the Shuttle Retirement like so many others, but
the music, the video, it was perfect. Pulls at the heartstrings and
gives us pride in our Space Program and our country! Great job everyone! "
“Elvis has left the building,” said a NASA employee, as the last astronaut left Atlantis’ flight deck.
Share a moment of silence and respect for all of the astronauts, workers, and
families who have been part of America’s space shuttle era over these
past three decades—and for those astronauts who did not return. God Speed.