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Space shuttle Atlantis   (Source: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Atlantis landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 5:57 a.m. EDT

Space shuttle Atlantis made its final landing early this morning, marking a successful mission as well as the end of an era.

NASA has now officially retired its entire Space Shuttle fleet, which consisted of Space shuttle's Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis. Space shuttle Discovery made its final mission in February 2011, Space shuttle Endeavour completed its last jaunt to space in June 2011, and now, Space shuttle Atlantis has returned home to enjoy retirement as well.

Atlantis landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 5:57 a.m. EDT. The 13-day mission to the International Space Station was nearly flawless, with only a few computer glitches that were easily managed. This was Atlantis' 33rd voyage.

While the crew was happy to be home safe, it was also an emotional arrival due to the fact that NASA's Space Shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981, is now closed after 30 years of service.

"The space shuttle changed the way we viewed the world, and it changed the way we view our universe," said Chris Ferguson, Atlantis' commander. "There's a lot of emotion today, but one thing is indisputable: America is not going to stop exploring. Thank you Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour and our ship, Atlantis."

Ferguson led a crew of three, including pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim. Their mission to the International Space Station provided supplies, equipment and food as well as over 9,400 pounds of spare parts and other supplies.

"We're going to put Atlantis in a museum now, along with the three orbiters, for generations that will come after us to admire and appreciate," said Ferguson. "And hopefully, I want that picture of a six-year-old boy looking up at a space shuttle in a museum and saying, 'Daddy, I want to do something like that when I grow up,' or 'I want our country to do fantastic things like this for the continued future."

The retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet means that the U.S. has no way of sending humans into space. Russia is the only means of getting to space for American astronauts at this point.

The curtain has closed on NASA's Space Shuttle fleet, but we haven't stopped looking through our telescopes and asking, "What if?" quite yet. The next step is to travel to an asteroid by 2025, and Mars in 2030.

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Kids say the darndest things
By tastyratz on 7/21/2011 9:41:07 AM , Rating: 2
"And hopefully, I want that picture of a six-year-old boy looking up at a space shuttle in a museum and saying, 'Daddy, I want to do something like that when I grow up,' or 'I want our country to do fantastic things like this for the continued future."

I can picture a 6 year old boy saying the first line, but what 6 year old boy would say what he presented behind door number 2? I don't see that happening...

I do have to say it is sad though that we will have such a gap in our space exploration program

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By Mitch101 on 7/21/2011 9:54:07 AM , Rating: 2
I was in the 6th grade in Florida when we watched the first launch in Math class then walked outside to see it in the sky.

I was inspired but later had to face reality.

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By mcnabney on 7/21/2011 9:58:33 AM , Rating: 2
We had a similar gap between Apollo and STS (most of the 70s).

In fact, we have a space station in orbit (which will be chucked into the ocean in five years, seriously) that isn't really doing much besides 'being there'. We are nowhere near the technology level that it is actually necessary to have humans around to do things in space. The last useful thing an astronaut did in space was the repair-job on the Hubble, but I imagine a robot could have done the job too. It is just too expensive and adds enormous complexity for missions to be able to keep humans alive. We have reached the milestones, we know that we CAN do it, but keeping humans in microgravity isn't needed until we find a much cheaper way to get material into orbit so that we can actually do something 'big'. Right now, satellites, robots, probes, and telescopes are doing a fine job of exploring. No humans necesary.

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By GuinnessKMF on 7/21/2011 10:33:32 AM , Rating: 5
While that might be true, I think I speak for most of the readers here when I say "F that noise!"

Forget doing what's practical, doing what's practical is boring, we only live once, and I want to live my life knowing that we're only taking steps forward.

NASA may be viewed as a unnecessary expense (As some video linked off some other article mentioned, it's only a half cent on the dollar of our taxes), but it's one of the most successful government programs, the return on investment may not be direct, but advances in technology due to NASA have more than made up for the cost (good lord I don't want to imagine a world without tang!) If we're going to leave our children in debt, I'd rather we do it with something to show for it.

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By delphinus100 on 7/21/11, Rating: 0
RE: Kids say the darndest things
By Moishe on 7/21/2011 3:37:16 PM , Rating: 4
I didn't sign up for allowing my tax dollars to be abused by a large number of welfare recipients...

I want a return on my tax dollars.

Space exploration and technology are valuable and worthy things to spend our money on. They produce something and thus need to be supported.

Most welfare recipients produce nothing and simply suck up resources that could be used by any number of other things.

My point is that if you're going to say that taxpayers didn't sign on to space exploration, you should be more strongly fighting to prevent the much larger and more prolific waste of taxpayer resources in many other areas.

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By mcnabney on 7/21/11, Rating: 0
RE: Kids say the darndest things
By Moishe on 7/25/2011 11:55:09 AM , Rating: 2
The "cool" stuff is definitely cool... but an important part of the space program is the everyday use that makes it all familiar and cheaper in the long run.

For any program to become affordable, it needs to be more commonplace. It's not sexy, but it is necessary.

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By Jeffk464 on 7/21/2011 10:33:50 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I'm starting to believe the only reason to send people is if you want to set up a permanent base on the moon or mars. If not its a lot easier and cheaper to just sent probes. Think about it you only have half the mission, people expect to come back after the mission is over.

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By Jeffk464 on 7/21/2011 10:34:34 AM , Rating: 2
send - oops

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By MrTeal on 7/21/2011 10:49:44 AM , Rating: 2
How coincidental that Atlantis ends the shuttle era on the 42nd anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon.

I'm mixed on the retirement of NASA's manned space flight. I would hate to see the experience of those who designed and operated the shuttles leave; even if you want to restart the program in 10 years many of these people won't be available anymore and you'll spend time and money just getting back to the point you left off at.

That being said, manned space flight is hugely expensive. In FY2010, the ISS/Shuttles are 1/3 of NASA's budget, Exploration was another 20%. I'd like to think retiring the shuttles would allow more science to be done, although given recent trends I'm sure most will go to Earth Sciences (aka, trying to observe global warming).

Even in their FY2012 documents, NASA has $2.8B budgeted for the ISS in 2012, $3.0B in 2013, $3.0B in 2014, $3.1B in 2015 and $3.2B in 2016. This for a station that was intended to be deorbited in 2016 and may get a reprieve to 2020. Freeing up that cash would let NASA more than double their space science programs with money to spare.

By delphinus100 on 7/21/2011 12:27:11 PM , Rating: 2
I'm mixed on the retirement of NASA's manned space flig

Um, only the Space Shuttle has been retired.

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By inperfectdarkness on 7/21/2011 4:11:41 PM , Rating: 3
can we bring back the saturn V already?

RE: Kids say the darndest things
By Belard on 7/21/2011 7:58:25 PM , Rating: 2
No.... the tech is out-dated.

Space X's design is bigger and modern and will work for for LEO flights and they are making plans for farther out.

The Dragon Capsule holds 7 people... unlike Apollo's 3 or Orion's 4.

By inperfectdarkness on 7/22/2011 1:57:58 PM , Rating: 2
you could put as much crap as you want in the 3rd stage; it was only needed to get us to the moon. the first 2 stages have sufficient propulsion--especially if you factor in the F1's upgrades that would push power up by 30%.

Its been a long road
By Chaosforce on 7/21/2011 9:28:48 AM , Rating: 1
It's been a long road
Getting from there to here
It's been a long time
But my time is finally near

And I can feel the change in the wind right now
Nothing's in my way
And they're not gonna hold me down no more
No they're not gonna hold me down

'Cause I've got faith of the heart
I'm going where my heart will take me
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything
I've got strength of the soul
And no one's gonna bend or break me
I can reach any star
I've got faith, I’ve got faith, faith of the heart

RE: Its been a long road
By Manch on 7/21/2011 11:33:27 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for dragging up memories of that crappy show...

RE: Its been a long road
By acer905 on 7/21/2011 12:12:55 PM , Rating: 2
Crappy? First 2 seasons might apply, but the 3rd wasn't bad and the 4th was pretty good

RE: Its been a long road
By Manch on 7/21/11, Rating: 0
RE: Its been a long road
By Reclaimer77 on 7/21/11, Rating: -1
RE: Its been a long road
By Manch on 7/21/2011 10:03:47 PM , Rating: 2
Like I said I used crappy to be polite.

So Rec, did you like the Star Trek "reboot"?

RE: Its been a long road
By Reclaimer77 on 7/22/2011 12:47:35 AM , Rating: 1
As an action movie I enjoyed it. Except Star Trek isn't an action franchise and I felt it was WAY too soon to be "rebooting" it. The casting was populist, at times absurd. I mean, come on, Winonah Ryder as Spocks mother!?

It just seemed like all thunder and fury yet signifying nothing to me. Not nearly as re-watchable as the classics.

RE: Its been a long road
By Manch on 7/22/2011 10:44:49 PM , Rating: 2
Fair enough, I did like they way they "rebooted" it. This way it preserves the timeline of the original but allows a fresh start. I like the action part of it. Wrath of khan/Search for Spock had a good bit of action in them. The Save the whales one and the god one were horrible, but I liked the rest. Next gen movies were ok. The Borg one was the only good one. Generations was meh...

I think the next one will be better. This one had the challenge of reintroducing the characters and providing a story that was palatable to the core trekkies.

Wrath of Khan is the best tho. Think I'm gonn go watch it now.

RE: Its been a long road
By Chaosforce on 7/21/2011 3:02:26 PM , Rating: 2
The main point of why i posted the lyrics was due to the intro showing the progress into space and hopefully beyond

RE: Its been a long road
By Manch on 7/21/2011 10:06:20 PM , Rating: 1
Well, if I'm ever in space and some a-hole plays that song, I'll find some way to breach the hull.

Feel Bad for the Workers
By cjohnson2136 on 7/21/2011 9:52:42 AM , Rating: 2
I feel bad for the 1,500 shuttle workers that are getting laid off...:(

RE: Feel Bad for the Workers
By Mitch101 on 7/21/2011 10:01:59 AM , Rating: 2
My father lives in Titusville which is a ghost town of its former self. Many from NASA's Cape Canaveral live there and its surrounding areas. The Housing Collapse in that area alone has done far worse to them its one of the worst hit areas in the US.

On the bright side if there is one is they probably make more money for them in the Commercial industry than the private sector.

RE: Feel Bad for the Workers
By cjohnson2136 on 7/21/2011 10:03:44 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah which is probably true. But wouldn't it suck to know when that shuttle came down from space that you were losing your job. I mean I guess the bright side it gave them time to look for another.

RE: Feel Bad for the Workers
By Mitch101 on 7/21/2011 11:02:01 AM , Rating: 2
Bites for anyone to lose a job. Their options for local employment might be limited too as Lockheed Martin which is probably where a few expected to go I think had layoffs and job freezes recently too. But Im sure they will scoop up some of those NASA engineers.

The initial numbers sound bad but might not be all that bad I got 12k severance bonus once for staying with the company while they relocated as long as I stayed till the end. They vested my 401k even though you normally have to be there 5 years. I was only there 2+ years. They filed for my unemployment and offered job placement services as well. Sometimes sticking it out till the end is worth it. I dont know if NASA did the same but to keep them around till the end I wouldn't be surprised.

RE: Feel Bad for the Workers
By Yames on 7/21/2011 11:10:14 AM , Rating: 2
These aren't NASA employees, but contractors. It all depends on the companies they work for.

RE: Feel Bad for the Workers
By Dorkyman on 7/24/2011 5:29:26 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry to hear about the lousy real estate market for your dad. Where we are (Oregon) the market is about 25% down; parts of Las Vegas, Florida, and Phoenix are off 50+%.

The only positive note is that it gives a young family a chance to buy in cheaply.

The future doesn't look good.
By 91TTZ on 7/21/2011 2:39:43 PM , Rating: 2
As the US becomes more diverse and the average IQ and scholastic achievement of the nation continues to drop, projects like this will be relegated to the history books as the nation plunges into a welfare state. We'll be able to look back and reminisce about a time when the nation was able to accomplish such great things.

The rich will continue to get richer, the poor will continue to get poorer, but overall there will be more people capable of less.

RE: The future doesn't look good.
By JediJeb on 7/21/2011 3:56:46 PM , Rating: 4
In thinking about this I realized that the rich are becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer mostly because the poor no longer have any desire to be more than that. I'm not sure what has taken away the drive that almost everyone had to become better in their life. People used to want to improve their situation in life, or at least make it easier for their children to have a better life after them. Seems no days people are saying to heck with their kids, let them live the crappy life we have and turn down any opportunity to advance if it means a little more work.

Maybe is it because even the most lazy in our society can now live as comfortably as those who work themselves to death, or maybe even live a better life than the hard working people. Schools fill our children's heads with the idea that every one of them in Number One, which is a fallacy since there is only one number one, one number two, ect in any given thing. They teach children "you can be anything you want to be" but leave them thinking they can be that with out having to put any effort into it, then the children go out into the world and demand to be great while wanting others to do the work for them. I wonder if we would become a nation of over achievers again if there was more bite put back into under achieving?

RE: The future doesn't look good.
By 91TTZ on 7/21/2011 4:09:46 PM , Rating: 1
I wonder if we would become a nation of over achievers again if there was more bite put back into under achieving?

I really think so. We're basically paying people to sit around and do nothing. They're not living the best life but they're not starving, either. They can just sit around and have kids (which you have to pay for). The handouts need to stop. It may have started out with good intentions but in reality it just creates an entitlement generation. These people act like it's someone else's responsibility to keep them alive.

If anything, the only thing the government should be able to hand out is work. If you're jobless and need someone to put a roof over your head, someone should hand you a broom and make you sweep the street or do some other task that needs to be done but nobody wants to do. If they can't work because they have a bunch of kids that need to be raised, there should be places to bring these kids for the day to watch them. At least the kids can be raised right by someone who can provide them structure in their life; someone who is working and not a lazy bum.

RE: The future doesn't look good.
By Jeffk464 on 7/21/2011 6:28:29 PM , Rating: 1
Germany is more socialist that the United States and they have been kicking our ass in pretty much all indicators, so how do you explain that?

By thisisaname on 7/22/2011 1:11:36 AM , Rating: 2
The welfare/social security system was originally intended to help people that really needed it, for those truly disabled or temporarily unable to work. But the vast majority just suck of the tits of lady liberty because it's an "entitlement" program, their needs are met, and there is no desire at all to better themselves.
How do I know this? Because I was in the welfare program several years ago because I was unable to work. I lived in low income housing, and saw the kind of people these places bring in. I saw time and again people who sit on their asses all day, party until all hours of the morning. I noticed the partying was especially heavy around at the beginning of every month. There was no atmosphere to better themselves, they were perfectly happy with a roof over their heads, food in their stomach, their booz and the casino, and going to payday loan places every other week, getting their furniture and tv's from Rent-A-Center and the like.
Me, I finally got off my ass and got a job and went to school part time and got a degree. Finally several years later I'm working for a local hospital making over $40k a year as a nurse, and got the hell out of that welfare system.

RE: The future doesn't look good.
By Jeffk464 on 7/21/2011 6:25:17 PM , Rating: 2
Scholastic achievement has taken a nose dive with "certain" immigrant groups, but where did you get the IQ drop statistics? But yeah the US is definitely not in the same place it was post WW2 until the turn of the millennium. China is suppose to become the world's biggest economy around 2018 and the US economy as a percent of the global economy keeps getting smaller and smaller. All of these big projects will continue to get smaller and less spectacular and we will watch other countries pull of the wow, like other countries used to watch us.

Full size landing picture:
By Icopoli on 7/21/2011 1:34:12 PM , Rating: 3
RE: Full size landing picture:
By Dorkyman on 7/21/2011 4:12:41 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks; my new wallpaper.

Larger pciture please!
By spread on 7/21/2011 12:45:43 PM , Rating: 2
Can someone post a larger picture of the Atlantis landing at night? It looks awesome.

RE: Larger pciture please!
By KentState on 7/21/2011 1:14:27 PM , Rating: 1
Go to NASA's site and they have the picture in higher resolution.

Atlas rockets next
By JimboK29 on 7/21/2011 10:39:30 AM , Rating: 2
I read that NASA is looking into modifying the Atlas rocket to send astronauts and gear back to the ISS. I saw this linked on threatcore project.

But I don't think it will replace the shuttle (space pickup truck).

By Aibo on 7/21/2011 2:05:08 PM , Rating: 2
NASA said having the Space Shuttles in the museum will inspire future generation. That's different from me as Space Shuttle was my inspiration when I was a kid. Difference with the inspiration is Space Shuttle was a live program that inspired me daily watching new missions getting launched every few months (or even weeks).

New generation kids can only watch the history of Space Shuttle without anything live to watch daily.

My opinion is having live program is a lot more powerful as it keeps the inspiration alive daily than reading the history only. What is to say kids today may loose their interest in the space program by the time the country is able to launch future spacecraft (in 10 years to be realistic?) again?

To me, it's quite embarrassing that American beat the Russians to the moon and how we have to pay the Russians for a seat to the ISS. At least the Russians can have their laughs as they beat us in keeping the manned space flights going.

Every depressing day for me to watch Atlantis landed for the last time. Feels like something has died in me today.

I also don't see private companies are going to be ready as soon as they said. There are so many baby steps that have to learn first which takes time and money. Safely alone is going to be so expensive. That always have been the issue of manned flights. Now the private companies have to convince the civilians about the risk.

Also, it has to be profitable to keep private companies in business. Right now, there are a group of very wealthy people waiting but once that group of people has their flight, how many left that will be able to keep the private flights going often enough to be profitable? Unless the private companies get a lot of government contracts, it's going to be a tough space business.

A Bittersweet image.
By Ozziedogg2011 on 7/21/2011 5:04:50 PM , Rating: 2
A sad day. Good job old girl, you have served your country well. R.I.P.

I can imagine future episodes of Star Trek:

"Space: the final frontier. These are the Voyages of the USS Beancounter, their mission: To boldy go far as budgetery cuts allow."

By Turrbo on 7/21/2011 7:00:15 PM , Rating: 2
Congrat guys, you made history!


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