So finally the penguin got itself off the ground today.
It was indeed something to see, and I was happy I stuck it out for the final attempt. The engines were so bright that it was a little like looking into the sun, and the sound was deafening. The orbiter rose into the sky, and kept shrinking until it eventually looked like a shooting star heading out over the Atlantic.
The engine cut off, the big orange tank separated, and now Atlantis is safely in orbit. As we speak, the Atlantis is making its way towards the International Space Station, which is somewhere between North America and Europe. It will catch up with the station over the next few days, and rendezvous with it around 11:00 AM GMT on Monday, 11 September.
Later that same day, assuming everything else goes according to schedule, the giant truss the shuttle is carrying will be handed off to the station’s own robotic arm. Over the next few days, the astronauts will carry out a series of space walks to attach the truss and open the solar array.
The shuttle will land back here at the Kennedy Space Center around 20 September.
I, on the other hand, will be landing in Washington later this evening, with a pack full of very dirty clothes. Thanks for reading everyone!