Space Shuttle Launch Seen From Jet Fighter

It's an amazing scene: A NASA space shuttle rocketinginto space while U.S. Air Force pilots watch from their airborne F-15E StrikeEagle jet fighter. The stunning snapshot was taken May 14 as NASA's shuttle Atlantissoared into orbit on its final scheduled mission.

Air Force Capt. John Peltier took the photograph from aseparate aircraft. In the photo, Lt. Col. Gabriel Green and Capt. ZacharyBartoe patrol the airspace around NASA's Kennedy Space Center in CapeCanaveral, Fla., in the foreground while Atlantis streaks spaceward, leaving awhite exhaust plume in its wake.? [Seemore Atlantis launch photos.]

Green commands the Air Force's 333rd Fighter Squadron andCaptain Bartoe is the squadron's weapons system officer. Both aircrew membersare assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

Atlantis' STS-132 flight was the shuttle's 32nd and finalplanned mission to space. The 11-day spaceflight delivered a new Russianresearch room and vital spare parts to the International Space Station.? NASAis retiringits three space shuttles (Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour) after just twomore missions.

Discovery, the oldest shuttle in NASA's fleet, is slatedto launch on its final mission to deliver a storage room for the space stationand a robot tenant called Robonaut 2. The final space shuttle mission,Endeavour's STS-134 flight to deliver a $1.5 billion astrophysics experiment tothe space station.

NASA is seeking to delay those finalshuttle missions, to Oct. 29 and Feb. 28, 2011, respectively. A finaldecision on the launch plan is expected in the next few weeks.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.