July 21, 2011 | 1
NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program drew to an end this morning when the Atlantis orbiter touched down safely at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The shuttle landed to complete its final mission—and the final mission for the shuttle program overall—at 5:57 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time. It was the first available landing opportunity for the orbiter.
Atlantis‘s final flight, a 13-day resupply mission to the International Space Station, concludes a program that began with the launch of Columbia on April 12, 1981. Since that time 135 shuttle missions have flown, using five different vehicles carrying 355 different people.
Crewing Atlantis on its final flight were commander Christopher Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.
Thermal imagery of Atlantis after touchdown: NASA
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