Atlantis: The Final Mission

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Atlantis and four astronauts thundered into orbit, July 8, 2011 on NASA’s last space shuttle voyage, writing the final chapter in a 30-year story of dazzling triumphs, shattering tragedy and, ultimately, unfulfilled expectations. After days of gloomy forecasts full of rain and heavy cloud cover, the spaceship lifted off at 11:29 a.m. — just 2 minutes late — and embarked on the 135th shuttle mission. The crowd of spectators was estimated at nearly 1 million.

When Atlantis touched down July 21,2011 at Cape Canaveral, Fla., the high-flying era of the space shuttles came down to earth as well. After 30 years, the shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with Colombia, has ended with the 135th mission. Atlantis delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station, and retrieved a failed pump unit and other items for the return trip. Atlantis went aloft 33 times, logging over 125 million miles. The last shuttle will become a museum exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center.

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