Now that Atlantis has safely returned to Earth and the 30-year space shuttle program has drawn to a close, it's time to look back at the reign of Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour and the tragically shortened careers of Challenger and Columbia. Since 1981 NASA has launched 135 shuttle missions, reaching destinations such as the Mir space station, the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.
In those three decades the shuttle has had its triumphs—fixing the initially flawed Hubble, for one—and its tragedies. Below is a video tribute to the space shuttle, prepared by our colleagues at Nature, which touches on all those highs and lows. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) The tribute features footage from every shuttle flight, including the STS 135 mission that concluded this morning, and features a good number of the 355 individuals who flew on the shuttles.
Photo of space shuttle Discovery landing in 2006: NASA