Atlantis Liftoff

Photograph courtesy NASA/Jim Grossmann

Observers watch as space shuttle Atlantis launches on a mission to deliver a new segment of the International Space Station's backbone, known as the truss, to the orbiting laboratory. The shuttle has the most reliable launch record of any rocket now in operation. Since 1981, it has boosted more than 3 million pounds (1.36 million kilograms) of cargo into orbit.