The solid rocket boosters launching Atlantis have been assembled from segments flown on 57 prior space shuttle missions, including Atlantis' first flight, STS-51J, and 16 others.
Atlantis' three main engines have flown on 26 previous missions. The oldest? STS-91. The most recent? STS-128 (all three).
When first announced in May 2009, the crew for STS-132 included Karen Nyberg. She was replaced on the mission by Michael Good due to a temporary medical condition.
Atlantis' prime payload, the Russian-built Mini-Research Module-1 (MRM-1) "Rassvet" is the first and only Russian module to launch for the International Space Station on the space shuttle. The only previous Russian module to fly on the orbiter was the Mir Docking Module on mission STS-74 in 1995.
STS-132 is the first U.S. spaceflight since STS-97 in 2000 to only have veteran astronauts (who have flown at least once previously) onboard.
Atlantis was named after the prime research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930-1966. The two-masted, 460-ton ketch was the first U.S. ship to be used for oceanographic research.
Prior to launching on STS-132, Atlantis logged 115,770,929 miles orbiting the Earth 4,462 times over the course of 282 days.
This is Atlantis' 11th trip to the International Space Station. It also visited Russia's Mir space station seven times.
Although STS-132 is Atlantis' final planned mission, after landing, it will be readied to fly again. It will only do so however, if the crew of STS-134, the final shuttle mission, requires rescuing. The flight number assigned to Atlantis' launch-on-need mission is STS-335.
The countdown continues toward the scheduled launch of space shuttle Atlantis on its final mission, STS-132. At NASA Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A, the rotating service structure (RSS) was pulled away, revealing Atlantis in preparation for liftoff on Friday at 2:20 p.m. EDT.
Technicians began moving the RSS away from Atlantis at 5:29 p.m. and had it fully retracted 37 minutes later at 6:08 p.m. EDT.
"We're currently on schedule, and we're not working on any issues," said NASA Test Director Jeremy Graeber on Thursday morning.
NASA's primary weather concern for liftoff is the potential for a low cloud ceiling over Kennedy Space Center but the latest forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions at launch time.
Space shuttle Atlantis' external tank has been filled with 535,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
Credit: NASA TV
Fueling reached "stable replenish" of both cryogenic propellants at 7:56 a.m. EDT (LH2 "topping" began at 6:54 a.m.).
The three-hour tanking process, which began at 4:55 a.m. EDT, provides the fuel and oxidizer that Atlantis' three main engines require for the eight and a half minute flight to orbit, scheduled to begin with a liftoff at 2:20 p.m. EDT.
The forecast calls for an 70 percent chance of good weather for launch, and no technical issues are expected to prevent an on-time liftoff.
The STS-132 astronauts left their crew quarters to depart for Pad 39A at 10:30 a.m. EDT, riding the "AstroVan," a modified Airstream trailer. They arrived at their ride to orbit, shuttle Atlantis, a short 15-minute ride later.
STS-132 waves before leaving for Atlantis. Credit: collectSPACE
Commander Ken Ham, pilot Tony Antonelli and mission specialists Mike Good and Garrett Reisman boarded Atlantis and strapped into their seats on the flight deck.
Mission specialists Steve Bowen and Piers Sellers will ride to space on the shuttle's middeck.
With all the astronauts onboard, the closeout crew close Atlantis' hatch, pressurize the crew cabin, check for leaks, and then finish up their work inside the White Room prior to leaving the pad.