Space Shuttle Era Comes to a Close with Atlantis’ Successful Landing

by Nancy Atkinson on July 21, 2011

Space shuttle Atlantis touches down at Kennedy Space Center for the final time. Credit: NASA. Click for high resolution versions

An end to a remarkable era: the landing of Atlantis brings to a close the extraordinary and storied space shuttle program. This 135th and final mission ended when shuttle Atlantis and its four crew members touched down in the predawn darkness at 5:56 a.m. after a 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

See the landing video, below.

“Mission complete, Houston,” said STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson after Atlantis came to wheel stop. . “After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history. It’s come to a final stop.”

“We’ll take this opportunity to congratulate you, Atlantis,” replied capcom Barry “Butch” Wilmore in mission control in Houston, “as well as the thousands of passionate individuals across this great, space faring nation who truly empower this incredible spacecraft, which for three decades has inspired millinos around the globe. Job well done.”

“Hey thanks, Butch, great words, great words,” Ferguson said. “You know, the space shuttle has changed the way we view the world and it’s changed the way we view our universe. There are a lot of emotions today, but one thing is indisputable: America’s not going to stop exploring. Thank you Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour and our ship, Atlantis. Thank you for protecting us and bringing this program to such a fitting end. God bless all of you, God bless the United States of America.”

Universe Today would like to salute the people who blazed trails by building this unique vehicle, those who maintained and kept the space shuttles flying for 30 years — the longest of any US human space vehicle — and those who flew aboard the five ships who bore the names of great ships of exploration. We especially remember those who gave their lives for the cause of space exploration. The people and the craft will be remembered throughout history.

May this ending signal a new beginning of spaceflight.

“At today’s final landing of the space shuttle, we had the rare opportunity to witness history,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “We turned the page on a remarkable era and began the next chapter in our nation’s extraordinary story of exploration. The brave astronauts of STS-135 are emblematic of the shuttle program. Skilled professionals from diverse backgrounds who propelled America to continued leadership in space with the shuttle’s many successes. It is my great honor today to welcome them home.”

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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