Sun Sets for the Space Shuttle Program
July 21, 2011 – The shuttle Atlantis landed safely at Cape Canaveral early Thursday morning, concluding the agency’s 135th mission and marking the end of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program. “At today’s final landing of the space shuttle, we had the rare opportunity to witness history,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We turned the page on a remarkable era and began the next chapter in our nation’s extraordinary story of exploration.”
Atlantis and its crew of four astronauts touched down at 5:57 a.m. EDT, ending a 13-day mission as well as the shuttle’s 26-year flight service. The shuttle flew a total of 33 missions and nearly 126 million miles since its first mission back in 1985. This last mission was to deliver a year’s worth of supplies and spare parts to maintain the ISS throughout the post-shuttle era.
“The brave astronauts of STS-135 are emblematic of the shuttle program,” Bolden said. “It is my great honor today to welcome them home.”
The shuttle program had many achievements in its 30 years, including the orbital deployment of 180 spacecraft and the 12-year construction effort and completion of the ISS. The program’s fleet consisted of five shuttles: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. The program overcame two catastrophes – the 1986 Challenger disaster and the 2003 Columbia destruction. All together, the fleet flew more than 542 million miles in 135 missions.
“This final shuttle flight marks the end of an era,” Bolden added. “As we move forward, we stand on the shoulders of these astronauts and the thousands of people who supported them on the ground - as well as those who cheered their triumphs and mourned their tragedies.”