The final flight of the 30-year old space shuttle programme has been scheduled for July 8.
Atlantis will embark on a 12-day mission to deliver a year’s supply of food to the International Space Station as well as clothing and scientific equipment.
The flight was added to the shuttle’s schedule last year to buy time in case NASA’s newly hired cargo delivery companies have problems getting their spacecraft into orbit.
“This flight is incredibly important to the space station. The cargo that is coming up on this flight is really mandatory,” said NASA’s spaceflight chief Bill Gerstenmaier.
Since the 2003 Columbia accident, NASA has had a second shuttle on standby for a rescue mission if needed. Atlantis,
however, is the 135th and last shuttle to fly, with no backup shuttle in waiting.
The United States is ending the shuttle program to save its $4 billion (2.8 billion euros) annual operating costs and use the money to develop spaceships that can travel beyond the station, such as to the moon, asteroids and eventually to Mars.