MNN Galleries

10 historic images of rocket launches

Atlantis soars past the American flag after lifting off Launch Pad 39A

Photo: NASA/Fletcher Hildreth

9 of 11

Last launch of the space shuttles

“Atlantis soars past the American flag after lifting off Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:29 a.m. EDT on July 8, 2011,” writes NASA about the last launch of the space shuttle program. Here we see an excellent view of the solid rocket boosters in full thrust. The SRBs worked in conjunction with the three space shuttle main engines, which operated for the duration of the space shuttle’s powered flights, which was around 8.5 minutes after launch. These engines were so powerful that, as NASA describes, they consumed “liquid fuel at a rate that would drain an average family swimming pool in less than 25 seconds generating over 37 million horsepower.”