The Atlantis on the pad prior to launch.

The photo above was taken the evening before launch of STS-34 on October 18, 1989.

The three photos at left and below were taken at sunset the night before launch of STS-71 on June 27, 1995. Two show the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) still in place, protecting the orbiter. The third shows the RSS being rolled back and Atlantis being exposed for the first time.

RSS rollback was delayed because of the storm seen behind the stack in the first photo. There was heavy lightning for a time and we feared the whole process would be delayed a day or more. However, as they say, if you don't like the weather in Florida, wait five minutes. That was certainly the case here.

Orbiter Statistics: Atlantis (OV-104)

Rollout: April 6, 1985

First Flight: October 3, 1985 (STS-51J)

Named for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute research vessel Atlantis, 1930-1966. During this vessels career it logged more than half a million miles in oceanographic study.

Atlantis was rolled out of the Palmdale plant on September 20, 1998, after being refurbished with the installation of the first glass cockpit. This upgrade eliminated most of the gages and dials used for decades, replacing them with computer displays now standard in most commercial aircraft. The photo was taken from the roof of the hangar where the orbiters were built.

The landing of Columbia at the completion of mission STS-9 on December 8, 1983, was delayed until late afternoon(15:47 PST).

Preparations to move the orbiter from the runway lasted until after dark, providing for this unusual photograph.

Orbiter Statistics: Enterprise (OV-101)

Rollout: September 17, 1976

First Flight: August 12, 1977 (ALT-1)

Named for USS Enterprise from the television series “Star Trek” after a letter writing campaign from supporters of the show. The vehicle was originally supposed to be named Constitution.

OV-101 was scheduled to be the second orbiter to fly into space but the refurbishment for spaceflight was canceled during the Carter administration.

Enterprise conducted a series of Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) where it was carried aloft by the 7474 and released to fly back to the Edwards AFB runway.

Atlantis just after sunset and about an hour later, after all the light has gone. These photos are from the evening before launch of STS-34.

The night before a launch, the shuttle sits on the launch pad fully exposed. To facilitate work on the stack, there are huge, bright lights for the workers, turning the area around the pad into a false daylight. These lights can be seen 50 to 100 miles away. This photo is the night before launch of Atlantis to the International Space Station on mission STS-101 on May 19, 2000.