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Space Shuttle Era Ends with Safe Landing of Atlantis

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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FInal landing of the space shuttleNASA’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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  1. 1. Philippe00001 2:41 am 07/22/2011

    Fantastic stuff.
    A few questions:
    Is moving the mass of a space shuttle/rocket the greatest cost to a mission?
    Is moving this mass back to earth safely a huge cost also?
    Why do we want to transport parts for a space station into space in a space shuttle, when we can use an old fashion rocket, and leave the rocket in space as the space station?
    After all, we need the docking bays, the robotic arms, the life support systems etc on the space station.

    Why were the space shuttles brought back at all, when they could be left as part of the space station?

    Now with the space shuttle out of the way, can we get back to the big picture, and do it more efficiently?

    Link to this

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