KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL - Shrugging off a heart-stopping last second delay, space shuttle Atlantis rocketed into orbit today to begin NASA's 135th and final space shuttle mission. Punching through a layer of clouds, the shuttle left its roar and column of smoke behind for hundreds of thousands of people who lined the beaches and causeways around Kennedy Space Center to witness another milestone in the history of space exploration.
"What a truly awesome day today," said Bill Gerstenmaier, chief of space operations at NASA Headquarters. "We got to witness something really, really special and something really amazing. What you saw was the finest launch team and shuttle preparation teams in the world."
"The vehicle had a tremendous launch, the teams worked flawlessly, even the last-minute hold at 31 seconds, they worked through that with tremendous professionalism and got this launch off today."