Space Shuttle Atlantis Arrives Home Safely, Marks End of 30-Year Space Shuttle Program
July 21, 2011 9:21 AM
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
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.
"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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