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The space shuttle Atlantis is seen as it separates from the external fuel tank shortly after launch.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA TV / NASA

Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off for the last time from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. July 8, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This lift off is the

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The exhaust plume from space shuttle Atlantis is seen through the window of a shuttle training aircraft.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Dick Clark / NASA

The space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Denis Paquin / Associated Press

Atlantis lifts off with Commander Chris Ferguson leading a crew of three others flying the shuttle's final mission.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: GARY ROTHSTEIN / EPA

Space shuttle Atlantis lifts off from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. It is the 33rd flight for Atlantis and the 135th and final shuttle mission overall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Raoux / Associated Press

Spectators cheer as they watch Atlantis lift off.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: SCOTT AUDETTE / Reuters

Spectators line the A.Max Brewer bridge near Cape Canaveral for the launch.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: HANS DERYK / Reuters

Ron Stillman, left, and Tara Reece of Cocoa Beach, Fla., watch from their sufboards as Atlantis lifts off.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Dave Martin / Associated Press

Atlantis Cmdr. Chris Ferguson gives a thumbs up as he is strapped into his seat aboard the orbiter in this image from NASA TV.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA TV / Reuters

Atlantis astronauts Sandy Magnus, left, Rex Walheim (behind Magnus), Doug Hurley and Chris Ferguson leave the operations and check-out building on the way to the pad at the Kennedy Space Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Terry Renna / Associated Press

Members of the media photograph the Atlantis crew as they exit their quarters at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: STEVE NESIUS / Reuters

The space shuttle Atlantis shortly after the rotating service structure was rolled back at launch pad 39a, at the NASA Kennedy Space Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Ingalls / NASA

Space shuttle Atlantis stands on launch pad 39A one day before its scheduled launch at Kennedy Space Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Freddy Porter, 5, of Raleigh, N.C., plays with a toy shuttle in the Rocket Garden of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. He was visiting with family members hoping to see Atlantis blast off on the last space shuttle mission.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: HANS DERYK / Reuters

The rotating service structure is rolled back from Atlantis on Thursday in preparation for launch the next day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bill Ingalls / NASA

People gather near Launch Pad 39A to photograph and be photographed with Atlantis.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

An employee of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex dressed as an astronaut greets children at the center on Thursday, the day before the scheduled launch of Atlantis.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Hopeful spectators set up tents in the rain in a park near downtown Titusville, Fla., in preparation for the shuttle launch.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: HANS DERYK / Reuters

Space shuttle Atlantis is ready for launch -- if the weather permits. The forecast for Friday morning was not encouraging.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: MOLLY RILEY / Reuters

After Atlantis launches from Pad 39A, there'll be no more chances for souvenir photos like these.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off Friday morning, shooting straight into a brightening sky on a 12-day mission that marks the end of the nation’s  shuttle program. There had been fears that  that rain might delay the launch,  but that didn’t stop crowds from streaming to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Local tourism officials predicted as many as 1 million visitors.

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