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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: Kids say the darndest things
By delphinus100 on 7/21/2011 12:25:49 PM , Rating: 0
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.

That's fine if it's just my money, (or just your money). Taxpayers who didn't necessarily sign on to this, however, rightfully deserve practical returns on their space-spent dollar.

And it violates no law of physics to say we can't both get what we want...

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.

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