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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 mcnabney on 7/21/2011 5:26:10 PM , Rating: 0
What space exploration is being done on the shuttle?

The Shuttle and ISS are doing one thing. Living in space. They aren't exploring anything. All of the cool stuff is being launched on Delta rockets. Hell, I would sacrifice the shuttle fleet and ISS just to get the Webb or Interferometer into high orbit. The REAL exploration is completely unaffected by the end of the shuttle.

And who are these 'welfare' recipients? Clinton killed the old welfare system. If you really want to trim Medicare or Food Stamps, be specific about it. Right now, because of outsourcing manufacturing to Asia there aren't too many paying jobs for people that aren't blessed with a triple digit IQ. They need something to do to keep the crime rate low.


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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