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Shuttle Heads Into Sunset On Final Voyage

Tuesday, 19 July 2011
     

The Space Shuttle Atlantis, the last operational shuttle, has landed, bringing an end to 30 years of manned US launches.

Space shuttle Atlantis touched down in Florida in the early hours of Thursday. morning, marking the 135th and last landing of NASA's 30-year shuttle program.

STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson piloted Atlantis to a safe arrival at 5:57 a.m. EDT (1057 GMT) on Runway 15 at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida.

"Mission complete," Ferguson radioed as Atlantis rolled to a stop. "After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history. It's come to a final stop."

"The space shuttle has changed the way we view the world," Ferguson said, "and it's changed the way we view our universe. There are a lot of emotions today, but one thing is indisputable: America's not going to stop exploring."

"Thank you Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour, and our ship, Atlantis. Thank you for protecting us and bringing this program to such a fitting end," said Ferguson. "God bless all of you, God bless the United States of America."

Returning with Ferguson were pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim — NASA's first four person crew since the sixth space shuttle mission, STS-6, in 1983.

Atlantis flew 135 times. Atlantis' final mission, known as STS-135, was to restock the International Space Station with a years worth of food and spare parts. Of course the shuttle has also been responsible for taking away the rubbish. Rubbish can't be jettisoned in orbit, as it would pose a danger to the space station and other craft such as satellites. At 17580 miles an hour, even a discarded Dorito could punch a hole right through the space station.

Atlantis has flown a total of 125,935,769 miles during it's 30 years of service, and spent 307 days in space. 355 lucky Astronauts hitched a lift, and the Shuttles did most of the lifting work to get the space station into orbit.

It's a sad day for many at NASA and a sad day for us. There is no planned US replacement for the Shuttle, although the Russians will still be servicing the space station and providing a taxi service for Astronauts with their Soyuz capsules.

NASA's Rob Navias leaves us with this message:
"Having fired the imagination of a generation, a ship like no other, it's place in history secured, the space shuttle pulls into port for the last time, its voyage at an end."

 

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