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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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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.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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