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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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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.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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