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Ticket pics of the week: Atlantis--out of sight and out of this world

NASA Atlantis Over the Bahamas 7-10-11 as seen from the International Space Station

One week into its last flight, the sole surviving U.S. space shuttle Atlantis is docked now with the International Space Station about 250 miles above who-knows-where-at-this-moment.

The four-member crew on the space truck has delivered supplies for the next year, weighing some five tons if they were on Earth, which they aren't anymore.

The orbiter will bring back refuse and completed experiments. And a close inspection of itAtlantis clears the Launch rTower 7-8-11 Jay Catalanos 3,000 heat shield tiles deemed them worthy to handle the searing reentry process next week.

See bonus pic below of the last U.S. space shuttle space walk Wednesday.

These shuttles were designed for 100 flights apiece. However, without some miraculous reprieve, Atlantis (now on its 33rd mission) will like Discovery and Endeavour before her, undergo removal of its toxic chemicals and classified instruments and prepare for very public retirements.

Atlantis will reside at the Kennedy Space Center's Visitors Complex. Discovery will go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. And Endeavour is bound for sunny Southern California at the California Science Center south of downtown Los Angeles.

The Johnson Space Center headquarters in Houston gets nada.

RELATED:

What space life is really like

Behind the scenes of a shuttle launch

Atlantis is up and the space shuttle program is up in smoke

NASA the Last US Shuttle Spacewalk Atlantis 7-13-11 with MikeFossum

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: NASA (Atlantis on her last flight passes over the Bahamas); Jay Catalano (Atlantis clears the tower, July 8); NASA (Astronaut Mike Fossum makes the last U.S. space shuttle spacewalk, via Atlantis, July 13).

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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