21 July 2011, 5:54:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, (21:54:00 UTC) Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-135, landed at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Wheel stop was 5:57:54 a.m., EDT.
This 13-day mission had been the thirty-third flight for Atlantis. It had spent a total of 307 days in Earth orbit.
This brought to a close The Era of American Manned Space Flight which began 50 years, 2 months, 15 days, 20 hours, 23 minutes, 41 seconds earlier with the launch of Alan Shepard in Freedom 7, 5 May 1961, 09:34:13 EST.
The benefits of the NASA programs over these decades are immeasurable.
19 July 1969, 22:42 UTC, T + 81 hours, 10 minutes: Just over 58 minutes since the Apollo 11 spacecraft entered a circular orbit around the Moon, Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin entered the Lunar Module Eagle to power it up and start systems checks in preparation for the descent to the Lunar surface.
16 July 1969: At 13:34:42.30 UTC, 2 minutes, 42.30 seconds after launch, the S-IC first stage of the Apollo 11/Saturn V has burned out and is jettisoned. Apollo 11 has reached an altitude of 42 miles (68 kilometers) and a speed of 6,164 miles per hour (9,920 kilometers per hour). The five Rocketdyne F-1 engines have burned 4,700,000 pounds (2,132,000 kilograms) of liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellant.
After separation, the S-IC first stage continued upward on a ballistic trajectory to approximately 68 miles (109.4 kilometers) altitude, reaching its apex at T+4:29.1, then fell back to Earth. It landed in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 350 miles (563.3 kilometers) downrange.
16 July 1969: Apollo 11/Saturn V AS-506 accelerates with all five Rocketdyne F-1 engines burning. As the rocket climbs through thinner atmosphere, the engines become more efficient and the total thrust for the S-IC first stage increases from 7,648,000 pounds of thrust to 9,180,000 pounds of thrust at about T+1:23.0.
In order to limit acceleration, a pre-planned signal to cut off the center engine is sent at T+2:15.2 (Center Engine Cut-Off, “CECO”). As the first stage burns fuel at a rate of 13 tons per second, the rapidly deceasing weight of the Saturn V and the increasing efficiency of the F-1 engines could cause the limits of vehicle acceleration to be exceeded.
By T+2:30, the Saturn V has reached an altitude of 39 miles (62.8 kilometers) and is 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) downrange.
This photograph was taken by a 70mm telescopic camera aboard a USAF/Boeing EC-135N A/RIA (Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft) serial number 60-374. The airplane is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.